Special Olympics Alaska bestowed 27 gold medals on the 18 Juneau athletes that participated in the 2018 Summer Games in Anchorage over the weekend.
Juneau competed in three out of the five sporting events hosted at the Summer Games: basketball, track and field and swimming.
The Juneau Rebounders held off the Tanana Valley Hawks 30-25 to win their fourth-consecutive gold medal in the basketball tournament. Jesse Quick scored nine points in the winning effort, giving him 41 total points in the three-game tournament. Kallie Aceveda (24 points), Gabe Canon (24 points), Kristina Brown (11 points) and LeRoy George (11 points) were also high scorers.
Basketball coach Katie Sullivan stressed teamwork, sportsmanship and having fun and made sure the team didn’t pull too far ahead. Sullivan instructed some players to focus on other skills besides just scoring.
“And they’re very good with that, they’re not, ‘See how many points I can get,’ because they know it’s a team thing,” Sullivan said. “In the past, if they wanted to ball-hog or stuff, I would bench them.”
The Rebounders opened the tournament on Saturday with a convincing 52-38 win over Central Peninsula Road Warriors. The team advanced to the Sunday afternoon championship with a 42-32 victory against the Mat-Su Timberwolves.
Sullivan said the Hawks, whose coach claimed had been “practicing all year to beat Juneau,” played fiercely and repeatedly put Juneau on the free-throw line.
“Their idea was just to try to be aggressive and try to steal the ball, well, then you start playing a little sloppy,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said some of the loudest cheers were for Jacob Lewis, who made a 3-pointer in one of the games.
“He does that now and then because he just gets the ball and he just shoots,” she said. “Well, amen to that, sometimes he makes it, and the crowd roars.”
Over in the pool, Juneau’s 4×50-meter relay squad of CJ Umbs, Sara Muehlberg, Lauro Untalasco and Christine Quick also displayed teamwork. Juneau’s first swim relay team in three years didn’t disappoint, setting a personal best and picking up a silver medal.
“I didn’t care what color that medal was, I was more proud of them for the time they turned in and we got through the relay with hardly any experience in that,” Juneau swim coach Michelle Umbs said.
The four relay members, plus teammates Nolan and Ryan Harvey, swam in at least three events over the two-day swim meet at Dimond High School.
Nolan Harvey made stark improvements in the 50-meter backstroke and freestyle, which he will attempt to do again at the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, Washington from July 1-6. Nolan Harvey shaved at least eight seconds off each of those races.
“This was hugely impactful for Nolan because he has improved so much over the last year,” Umbs said.
Twin brother Ryan Harvey, CJ Umbs and Sara Muehlberg all earned multiple golds in the swimming events.
CJ Umbs is one of just five swimmers statewide that compete in the 400 freestyle. After placing second to Anchorage’s Graham Moore in the race last year, Umbs bested Moore this year by 13 seconds. The two also raced one another in the 200 freestyle.
“We’re really proud of him, not because of the Gold Medal, because he shaved off some significant time as well — I think it was almost 10 seconds, too,” Michelle Umbs said.
Outside on the track, Juneau’s Michelle Boster and Carl Behnert won six gold medals. Boster collected golds in the softball throw and 100-meter run. Behnert impressed with his gold medals in the standing long jump, 25-meter, 50-meter and 100-meter walk.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.