All of Mercer County was under a traffic alert as New Jersey hosted the U.S. Special Olympics Games, drawing close to 90,000 spectators, supporters, volunteers, and athletes from all over the United States. Four of those athletes were students from Y.A.L.E. School!
“We are so proud of these young men, who made a huge commitment to their sports and showed a lot of initiative,” said Margaret Chapman, Assistant Director at Y.A.L.E. School’s Cherry Hill campus. “It was an experience of a lifetime for them to compete in the national spotlight.”
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Y.A.L.E. School Special Olympics athletes from Burlington County profiled in an article in the Burlington County Times newspaper:
Day, 18, from Burlington, won silver and Naulty, 18, from Eastampton, won bronze in the 50 yard individual breaststroke event. New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno was in attendance when the pair were presented with their medals.
Later in the week, Day and Naulty’s relay team won the gold in the 4X25 yard Medley Relay. Day went on to compete and win gold in the 4X25 Freestyle Relay and achieved yet another gold medal in the men’s individual 50 yard freestyle bringing him to a total of three gold medals at the 2014 games.
Matthew Duman represented New Jersey in tennis at Mercer Park. Duman, 18, from Moorestown, competed in the doubles tennis event winning a bronze medal in a match against athletes from Team New York, then went on to win gold in the Level 5, Division 5 singles tennis event against a competitor from Delaware with a final score of 4-1, 4-0.
In a first for the US Special Olympics USA Games and Team New Jersey, baseball was added as an official event. Y.A.L.E. student Hunter Norman, 15, of Levittown PA, played with Team New Jersey against Team Rhode Island and won 6-1 in the historic debut of the sport at a national Special Olympics Games. After the game, Norman and his teammates autographed baseballs for spectators.
Also playing on a unified softball team comprising athletes with and without disabilities is Brandon Kueny, son of Y.A.L.E. School Cherry Hill teacher Jennifer Hicks. Kueny and Team New Jersey competed against softball teams from Pennsylvania and Nebraska, and cheered on their other teammates from Y.A.L.E. School at each of their events.
The events began on June 14 and continued through June 21 in Princeton and Lawrenceville. The Special Olympics USA Games drew 3,500 athletes in 16 Olympic-style team and individual sports, with the support of 1,000 coaches, 10,000 volunteers and 70,000 family, friends, and spectators. In New Jersey, the event’s size was second only to the Super Bowl, and was expected to generate over $80 million in revenue.
Sports competition were held at venues throughout Mercer County, New Jersey, including Princeton University, Rider University, The College of New Jersey, Mercer County Park, and several area private schools. In addition to the many sports competitions, Team New Jersey athletes participated in special events including an Opening Ceremony at Prudential Center, Closing Ceremony at Sun National Bank Center, a boardwalk-themed Olympic Town, a Special Olympics Unified Sports® Festival, and much more.
To learn more about the Special Olympics National Games, visit http://www.2014specialolympics.org/
Special thanks to the family members of our student atheletes who contributed photos and information for this article.