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Local Special Olympians compete at state games

 

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Local Special Olympians compete at state games

It was four days jam packed with fun, excitement and sports. It was also four days that won't be forgotten by a little girl - and likely anticipated each year with excitement.

Brooke Flemmer has been waiting to participate in the Special Olympics joining her uncle, veteran athlete Justin Knutson in the fanfare that takes place at the state level.

Athletes must be 8 years old, making a happy circumstance as Flemmer's birthday fell just in time to participate in the regional games in Kalispell, and qualify for the state games in Great Falls, which took place in mid-May.

"She was so excited to be there," shared Flemmer's mother Colleen Knutson. "This was my brother, Justin's tenth year at the games, so I think this makes it my eighth year involved." In the past, Colleen has gone along for the ride as a volunteer and for moral support. This year, she was there for her daughter while assisting in wrangling the other members of the Super Hawks to their scheduled events.

"It is an amazing, supportive atmosphere," Knutson shared. "Families you don't even know are cheering your kid on, and other athletes who are supposed to be in competition are showing the kindest sportsmanship and encouragement for their competitors."

Flemmer and Knutson were joined by Shawn McKahan and Cody James Page on the Super Hawks team. While most athletes are required to have one-on-one coach supervision, McKahan takes charge of his familiar surroundings.

True to form, McKahan sold a record amount of raffle tickets using his charm and determination. Justin's mother, Karen Knutson, was able to land about $450 in one day just before leaving on the trip. McKahan's mother, Linda, donated gas money to each vehicle in the Super Hawks caravan.

"There is a lot of support in our community, but we could always use the extra help, whether monetarily or through volunteers to coach and travel with the Super Hawks," Colleen Knutson explained. The Super Hawks reported nearly $3,000 spent on the entire event, with a few hundred coming out-of-pocket from the families.

This year's theme highlighted the superhero in every participant. A dance took place on Thursday, with caped crusaders boogieing down and enjoying activities and games. Apropos to the event, Flemmer donned the costume of the Flash, while her uncle wore his familiar Batman costume. McKahan brought his amazing self to the superhero party.

The games are held on a three-year rotation between larger Montana cities. This was the first year in the Great Falls location.

Despite all the fun and activities, the athletes still had enough gumption to excel in their respective events. Justin brought home all gold medals in his events, which included softball throw, 10 m assisted walk (using his walker to lean on), and 10 m coach-assisted walk. McKahan also landed golds for his efforts in softball throw (separate division, based on coach input and regional records), and the 100 m dash. James Page placed second n the long jump and earned gold medals in the 100 m dash and the 50 m. Newcomer Brooke beamed at her medals as if they were unfathomable and glowing with gold light. She stood on the podium to accept gold medals in the 50 m and 100 m, and a silver medal for her long jump.

 

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