Quesnel Special Olympics (QSO) sent 19 athletes south last weekend (June 24) for the Kelowna Okanagan Challenge.
The team, which included eight rookies who were competing at a track meet for the first time, is the largest QSO has assembled.
They did not disappoint.
Aleena Klotz, 12, put on an incredible performance, finishing first in all four of the events she competed in.
Aleena won for standing long jump, shot put, 100-metre dash, and 200-metre dash.
Of note was her 200-metre performance, where she shaved an astonishing 24 seconds off her qualifying time.
“It was really surprising,” says Megan Klotz, Aleena’s mother.
“People were cheering and it all came together (for her); she suddenly realized what she was supposed to be doing.”
“It made a lot more sense than it did at the practices.”
Special Olympics organizers place the athletes into divisions based on times and distances and heights that they achieve in practice.
Rick Prosk, program co-ordinator for QSO, says it took Aleena, who is new to Special Olympics, a while to get familiar and comfortable with her routines and being around other athletes and coaches.
While Klotz was elated to get the win, the meet was so much more than that for her and her family.
“She enjoyed being with all her friends and so many people who were supportive of each other,” says her mother.
All three Tilsner brothers impressed at the meet too.
Josh, 13, Zachary, 11, and Daniel, nine, are some of the most promising young Special Olympic athletes coming out of Quesnel.
Josh’s 400-metre race was one of the most spectacular races of the meet, Prosk says.
It was a two-person race for the division, where one entire lap of the track was to be run.
As Prosk explains it, Josh was running in lane three and his opponent was running in lane two, so Josh was starting on an outside lane, slightly ahead.
They ran to the first bend at the 100- to 150-metre mark and Josh’s fellow racer on the inside had passed him.
“Josh could now see where he was and I was wondering what he was going to do,” says Prosk.
“There’s this tendency to try and change your pace, so it was impressive when Josh kept his pace through the second bend into the final 100 metre.”
From there, Josh turned on the burners and his opponent began to tire, having exhausted himself in the early going.
Josh caught up to him with 20 to 30 metres left to run and then edged past him at the finish line.
Aaron Allinson: 1st in javelin with a new personal best (PB) of 11.90 metres; 1st in 100-metre dash; and 3rd in shot put.
Dean Cake: 2nd in 100-metre dash with a new PB of 23.67 seconds.
Jessica Colpitts: 1st in shot put; 2nd in long jump; 2nd in 200-metre dash; and 3rd in 100-metre dash.
Chrissy Dykhuizen: 2nd in standing long jump; 3rd in 100-metre dash; and 3rd in javelin.
Matthew Hender: 2nd in long jump with a new PB of 3.10 metres; 3rd in javelin.
Haley Higdon: 3rd in standing long jump.
Cheyenne Janes: 1st in 100-metre dash; and 3rd in shot put.
Tyler Kent: 1st in shot put with a new PB of 3.67 metres; 1st in standing long jump; and 2nd in 200-metre dash.
Greg Lindstrom: 2nd in javelin with a new PB of 7.50 metres.
Thomas McHugh: 2nd in 200-metre dash with a new PB of 35.57 seconds; and 2nd in shot put with a new PB of 6.22 metres.
Cory Melnychuk: 2nd in javelin; and 3rd in 5,000-metre race.
Glenda Melnychuk: 2nd in javelin; and 3rd in standing long jump.
Paulette Prosk: 2nd in standing long jump; and 3rd in 200-metre dash.
Brock Terlesky: 2nd in 100-metre dash; 2nd in 5,000-metre race; 2nd in 200-metre dash; and 2nd in javelin with a new club record and PB of 28.52 metres.
Daniel Tilsner: 1st in 200-metre dash with a PB of 34.75 seconds; 1st in shot put with a PB of 6.13 metres; 2nd in 100-metre dash with a PB of 16.12 seconds; and 3rd in 400-metre race with a PB of 1:23.01.
Josh Tilsner: 1st in 400-metre race with a new PB of 1.02.91; 1st in javelin with a PB of 16.30 metres; 3rd in 100-metre dash; 3rd in 200-metre dash with a PB of 26.77 seconds.
Zachary Tilsner: 1st in 100-metre dash; 2nd in 200-metre dash with a PB of 40.00 seconds; 3rd in 400-metre race with a PB of 1:40.87.
Candice Valois: 2nd in shot put with a PB of 3.66 metres; 2nd in 200-metre dash; and 3rd in javelin.