STILLWATER, OK —
The 12 Pryor Tigers who made the trek to Stillwater last week for the 44th edition of the Special Olympics Oklahoma Summer Games at Oklahoma State University brought home more than just big smiles — they brought home two dozen medals.
Nine Tigers took at least one gold medal — 13 in all — as well as four silvers, a bronze, two fourth-place medals and four fifth-place.
“I am so very honored to have the opportunity to take such a fine group of young men and women to an event of this magnitude,” Pryor Special Olympics head coach Leslie Burnett said. “There are nearly 5,000 athletes [at the games] and we brought 12 of the finest.”
Kellie Wagoner and Thomas Bateman swept the softball throw, each winning first prize in the girls and boys competitions. Wagoner also finished first in the 100-meter dash.
“Three years ago we took [Thomas] to his first competition,” Burnett said. “He looks forward to these events every year and has really come out of his shell. He is hoping to design a yearbook page for the group.”
William “Wild Thing” Scullawl came home decked out in gold, finishing first in the 25-meter wheelchair race and the 30-meter wheelchair slalom. Burnett said Scullawl's “positive attitude and competitiveness are an inspiration to us all.”
Krystal Moore grabbed two gold medals, one each in the 400-meter walk and the turbo javelin throw. Patience “Patti” Oliphant finished in first place in the running long jump and turbo jav.
“Patti looks forward to these trips every year and is always ready for a win,” Burnett said.
Isaac Thornton continued the gold medal cascade with a win in the running long jump, and third-year athlete Safrona “Sassy” Aragon won a gold medal in the 25-meter wheelchair race — her third in three years.
“Sassy has more drive than most athletes and is very determined to be a winner, but also very compassionate to those who don’t do as well,” Burnett said.
James Holiman and Tressa Calkins rounded out Pryor's impressive group of gold medalists. Holiman finished first in the 200-meter dash and Calkins leaped the farthest of anyone in the standing long jump.
“[Calkins] is a ball of energy,” Burnett said. “She has improved in the last year and took the gold in the standing long jump. That’s hard for a short girl!”
Cherokee Holiman finished in second place in the running long jump and fifth in the 200-meter run. Sean McKinney took a silver medal in the softball throw and a fifth-place medal for the 100-meter run, and after the celebration dance at the Stillwater High School football field, Burnett said the team found out “he is quite the dancing man.”
Senior Layce Veach won both of the Tigers' fourth-place medals, one apiece in the softball throw and the 100-meter walk. Veach was Pryor's representative in the Parade of Champions for the Green Country Division of Oklahoma Special Olympics. Veach is a third-year athlete and “if an award was given for most improved, she would win it,”
James Holiman claimed second place in the running long jump, and Thornton was the runner-up in the 400 meters.
Aragon claimed her second medal of the weekend with a bronze in the turbo jav. Calkins and Bateman rounded out Pryor's huge medal performance with a pair of fifth-place medals in the turbo jav and running long jump, respectively.
“There are so many great people that volunteer three days to take these athletes to OSU and stay in the dorms with them,” Burnett said.
Burnett was assisted by staff coaches Angie Evans, Shauna Bankes, Shauna Stanglin, Derek Voth and Tonya Mitchell. Joining the Olympians were student coach Abbye Jones and volunteer coach Shelby Pearson.
“This opportunity greatly humbles me in all the ways it touches our students, volunteers, donors, sponsors, administrators, student coaches, staff coaches, parents and families,” Burnett said. “Several of our athletes’ families plan and save for this trip every year. This is one of those rare chances where you get to see what you are doing making a difference as it is happening. These athletes no more finish their final event than they are planning for bigger and better next year.
“Thank you, Pryor, for making a difference in a child’s life today.”