Eighteen Juneau athletes will be joining over 300 others at the 2018 Special Olympics Alaska Summer Games this weekend in Anchorage.
Juneau will be competing in three out of the five sporting events hosted at the Summer Games: basketball, track and field and swimming. The Games also host gymnastics and powerlifting.
All three sports have their own coaches and have spent the last three months tuning up for the big event, which kicks off Friday night at East Anchorage High School with opening ceremonies. The sporting events will take place at nearby Dimond High School and Arctic Gymnastics over the next two days. Closing ceremonies are slated for Sunday afternoon at Dimond.
Wrangell, Anchorage, Central Peninsula, Fairbanks, Homer, Ketchikan, Kodiak, the Mat-Su Valley and Valdez are also sending delegations.
All told, a total of approximately 600 athletes, coaches and event volunteers make the Games go.
Special Olympics Alaska president Nicolle Egan said it all starts with the community support.
“They have spent the last three months or more getting ready: getting the coaches, getting the facilities, ordering uniforms, all the training,” Egan said. “There’s so much involved in the local program, which is where it’s happening. It’s where the athletes are training and getting the most value of Special Olympics.”
Egan said basketball, one of Juneau’s strengths, is a fan favorite at the Summer Games.
Juneau’s basketball team, dubbed the Juneau Rebounders, is made up of Jake Lewis, Andres Lewis, Jesse Quick, Raymond Carpenter, Erick Martinez, Gabriel Canon, Leroy George, Kristina Brown, Aubree Lewis and Kallie Aceveda.
This year, they’ll be competing against five other teams in a double-elimination tournament. They play either the Anchorage Polar Bears or Central Peninsula Road Warriors on Saturday morning.
The basketball team isn’t the only team with high expectations. For the first time, the swim team fielded relays in both the 4×25 and 4×50-meter races.
The swimming team is made up of CJ Umbs, Christine Quick, Lauro Untalasco, Nolan Harvey, Ryan Harvey and Sara Muehlberg. Umbs and Quick both competed internationally at the World Summer Games in 2015. Nolan Harvey, by winning a gold medal last year, qualified for the USA Games early next month in Seattle.
“I’m very proud of each and every swimmer,” said Michelle Umbs, the director and swim coach of Juneau Special Olympics. “We have four that I call our core and they’ve been swimming for a very long time together. And then we’ve got Nolan and his brother (Ryan), who is far more in love with track and field and running, he decided to swim this year as well.”
Nolan Harvey will be one of 25 athletes and Unified partners from Alaska competing at the USA Games, held every four years.
“It’s a great honor for Juneau and for Nolan to be recognized for his swimming accomplishments,” Egan said.
Carl Behnert and Michelle Boster will be competing in track and field. Behnert is entered into the 25-meter, 50-meter and 100-meter walk, standing long jump and softball throw. Boster is entered into the 100-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter run, running long jump and softball throw.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.