Coach Heidi Renner awards athletes from the Central Kenai Peninsula’s Special Olympics Alaska swim team with ribbons they earned in recent competition at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Coach Heidi Renner awards athletes from the Central Kenai Peninsula’s Special Olympics Alaska swim team with ribbons they earned in recent competition at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Local athletes travel to Anchorage to compete in Special Olympics Summer Games

The team will participate in swimming and basketball skills competitions

Athletes from the Kenai Peninsula are traveling to Anchorage this weekend to compete in the Special Olympics Alaska State Summer Games. The local Special Olympics Central Peninsula team will participate in swimming and basketball skills competitions.

Cece Strongheart is swimming the individual medley and some longer distance freestyle this weekend. She said she enjoys swimming the long races.

Competing as a part of the swim team, she said, is fun and fulfilling. Her goal this weekend is to complete all her races without getting disqualified.

Also going to Anchorage with a goal is Jason Kriss, who said he wants to compete and win in all his events. He’s been participating in Special Olympics for over a decade, and so has lots of friends from around the state he’s excited to see.

The Central Peninsula team, he said, is special because it’s a smaller and more tight-knit group than some larger programs around the state. That means athletes get more direct instruction and opportunity for growth.

Alex Harrison is swimming in a few events this weekend, including a relay for the first time. It’s exciting, he said, to swim together with his fellow athletes. Building connections is a key element of participating on the team.

“I like to meet new friends,” he said.

Emma Titus, another swimmer, enjoys swimming freestyle. She said on Tuesday that she’s excited for the competition this weekend.

“I love the water,” she said.

In basketball, Hannah Hall will be competing. Her coach said that this is her first year with the local team, but she’s been involved with Special Olympics for over a decade.

She said she’s looking forward to traveling with the team and spending time socializing with the other athletes but noted that the basketball skills competitions can be more individual than other team activities like playing full games of basketball or being on the swim team.

Hall said she has friends from other teams who will be in Anchorage for the competition, and her mother said that the social dance held annually as part of the competition will be a great opportunity for everyone to get together. Harrison had also cited the dance as a big draw for the event.

Participating in Special Olympics is valuable, Hall said, because she gets the opportunity to work and grow as part of a team.

TJ Allen also played basketball with the local team this year. The full team can’t compete, which he said is frustrating, but he spent the season learning and improving his game. Basketball is something he said he didn’t have any interest in as a child but recently picked up.

“I discovered I was pretty good at basketball,” he said.

For more information about the team and their competition this weekend, find “Special Olympics Alaska Central Peninsula Community” on Facebook.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

Central Kenai Peninsula athletes who will be competing in the Special Olympics Alaska 2024 Summer State Games stand for a photo at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Central Kenai Peninsula athletes who will be competing in the Special Olympics Alaska 2024 Summer State Games stand for a photo at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Central Kenai Peninsula athletes who will be competing in the Special Olympics Alaska 2024 Summer State Games stand for a photo at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Central Kenai Peninsula athletes who will be competing in the Special Olympics Alaska 2024 Summer State Games stand for a photo at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

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