Local Special Olympics athletes to play in state games

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Local Special Olympics athletes have been practicing their swings and are ready to compete in the upcoming State Fall Games.

Nearly 1,700 Special Olympics Michigan athletes will make their way to southeast Michigan for the fourth annual Special Olympics Michigan State Fall games.

Area 5 Special Olympics, which is made up of athletes from Mecosta and Osceola counties, is taking a delegation of 21 athletes, coaches and chaperones to the State Fall Games from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1.

Athletes from across the state will showcase their skills in flag football, soccer, cycling, softball, golf and kayaking.

"Our athletes will be competing in golf – both skills and 9-hole competitions," said Pat Rosales, Special Olympics Area 5 director. "They have been practicing weekly at Katke Golf Course since July 18 in preparation for this event."

Flag football and cycling will be held at Chrysler Proving Grounds in Chelsea. Golf will take place at Eagle Crest Golf Course in Ypsilanti while kayaking is held at the Eastern Michigan University boathouse. Soccer will be at Independence Park in Canton and softball will be held at Canton Softball Complex, according to a press release from Special Olympics Michigan.

Area 5 was introduced to golf in 2010 by Mike Mignano, former men’s and women’s golf coach at Ferris State University, Rosales said.

"Mike had volunteered with our area and thought it would be a great opportunity for our athletes," she said. "Mike coached our athletes from 2010 through 2015."

In 2011, Area 5 competed at the state level in the golf competition. Prior to the fall of 2014, these sports were offered at various times during late summer and fall, Rosales said.

"The State Fall Games started in 2014 combining these sports into one weekend in honor of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of Special Olympics," she said.

To prepare for their trip to the Special Olympics Michigan State Fall games, the athletes have been working with Ian Ziska at Katke Golf Course, along with the assistance of various students of the Ferris Professional Golf Program through the years.

"We are very appreciative of their support," Rosales said.

The competition is about more than just sports; it's about connections and friendships.

"Our athletes are looking forward to the competition at Fall Games and meeting up with fellow athletes and chaperones again from other areas around the state," Rosales said.