For the first time since the pandemic, 11 athletes from North Platte and Lexington attended the Special Olympics’ district swimming competition on March 11.

Chris Radke, coach and liaison between the North Platte Opportunity Center and Special Olympics, said the athletes are divided into youth and adult groups and brackets are set according to abilities.

“We want them to know that they can do these sports and have fun doing them,” she said.

Marcus Doughty is the head coach. He works with Kasey Schroeder and Patti Dwyer Harkreader to train the swimmers in breaststroke, freestyle and backstroke. The training began in September. They practice for an hour every Wednesday or Saturday, depending on their schedules.

In addition to individual races, four-person teams will compete in a 100-meter freestyle relay. Others will compete in walking races.

The district meet was held at the YMCA in Kearney on March 11. Swimmers continue to train after districts in preparation for the state Special Olympics in Omaha in May.

Special Olympics athletes in North Platte compete in three sports: swimming, bowling and bocce (lawn bowling). The swimming and bowling seasons match the dates of the school year.

Regional competitions for bowling resumed in 2022, but this year will be the first year they will go to state competition at the end of March in Lincoln. The state tournament will be held at the Big Apple in Kearney. Thirteen of the 20 North Platte bowlers qualified for state competition.

The bocce season runs from June to August.

Radke said the athletes learn about joining through co-workers, friends, or at the Opportunity Center.
Anyone interested in joining can visit or call the Opportunity Center at 308-532-3965.

The Special Olympics is solely supported by public donations and goodwill. Radke said the Knights of Columbus are generous donators and longtime supporters. Also, Gary Suhr, the owner of Wild Bill’s, gives the bowlers a special rate for practices. The North Platte Recreation Center allows the swimmers to train at no cost.

Donations help cover the cost of traveling to competitions.

In most cases, the Special Olympics organizations will pay the athlete’s travel expenses. The athlete’s needs or circumstances determine if funding is available to help family members with travel costs.

According to the Special Olympics Nebraska website, the program began in 1970 with 250 athletes and has grown to more than 7,500 athletes who participate in more than 75 competitions a year.

From left: Risie Merel, Kerry Bassett, Louie Cline, Zach Parrish, Autumn Weinman and Derek Malcom

District results for North Platte:

1. Kehrry Bassett, Rosie Merrell, Derek Rotert, Autumn Weinman.

2. Pam Kackmeister (North Platte), Melissa Crick (Lexington), Jennifer Hendricks (Lexington), Damon Willets (Lexington).

Participation – Brad Chapman, Zach Parish, Tyler Rossell, Brian Hendricks (Lexington).

15 Meter walk 

1. Louie Cline. 

2. Philip Hedges, Crystal Davis.

25 Meter Backstroke:

1. Brad Chapman.

2. Tyler Rossell, Kehrry Bassett, Rosie Merrell.

3. Pam Kackmeister.

Participation – Derek Rotert.

25 Meter Breaststroke:

2. Zach Parish.

25 Meter Freestyle:

2. Rosie Merrell.

3. Brad Chapman, Pam Kackmeister.

5. Derek Rotert.

50 Meter Freestyle:

2. Tyler Rossell.

3. Kehrry Bassett.

4. Zach Parish.

(Results submitted by Coach Sandee Werblow)

Derek Malcom swims in the deep end for the first time towards Coach Marcus Doughty.

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