RHS Special Olympians excel at summer games

Special to The Robbinsville Sun Robbinsville High School sent its first team to the NJ Special Olympics on June 8-9 at The College of New Jersey. Shown from left are Coach Marybeth Kowalski, two-time gold medalist Quinten Moultrie, Omar Radwan, and assistant coach Joan Douglass. RHS student Ryan Stahlbrand (not shown) competed in the summer games as well on the Hamilton YMCA’s SKOR Diamonds softball team and earned a silver medal.

Special to The Robbinsville Sun
Robbinsville High School sent its first team to the NJ Special Olympics on June 8-9 at The College of New Jersey. Shown from left are Coach Marybeth Kowalski, two-time gold medalist Quinten Moultrie, Omar Radwan, and assistant coach Joan Douglass. RHS student Ryan Stahlbrand (not shown) competed in the summer games as well on the Hamilton YMCA’s SKOR Diamonds softball team and earned a silver medal.

The Robbinsville Special Olympics Team wrapped up a successful inaugural season by sending two of its high school athletes to the 2013 Summer Games, where they competed with 2,500 other athletes at the College of New Jersey on June 8-9 and brought home medals for their efforts.

Robbinsville High School’s Quinten Moultrie, 18, won two gold medals in both the long jump and 100-meter dash. His best friend and teammate Omar Radwan, 17, took fourth-place in the 50-meter dash and sixth in the javelin. It was the first trip to the summer games for both teenagers.

“And I’m going to do it again and again and again and again,” Moultrie said the next day.

RHS student Ryan Stahlbrand, 18, also competed, playing right field for the Hamilton YMCA’s SKOR Diamonds softball team, which won silver. Stahlbrand is a New Jersey Special Olympics veteran, having gone to the summer games twice before with the SKOR Diamonds.

There are about a dozen students in all from Sharon School, Pond Road Middle School and RHS on the new Robbinsville Special Olympics Team, coached by special education teacher Marybeth Kowalski. They have practiced and participated in a variety of sports throughout the school year, including soccer, basketball and track and field.

“We’re ending our first year as a team,” Kowalski said. “It’s been very exciting because we’ve been very successful and a lot of our athletes have won medals. It’s very cool to see how excited they all are about it.”

Moultrie and Radwan were selected to represent Robbinsville Special Olympics at the summer games not only because they are good athletes, but because they are mature enough to handle a two-day stay in a college dormitory away from their families, she said. Kowalski and assistant coaches Kristina Mannino and Joan Douglass stayed on campus throughout the weekend.

Dorm life apparently suited Radwan and Moultrie, who regaled a visitor with stories about their activity-packed weekend, which included dances, a “tent city” mini carnival on TCNJ’s football field and a trip to a minor league baseball game with the 3,500 Special Olympians and coaches.

JOANNE DEGNAN/The Robbinsville Sun Robbinsville High School student Quinten Moultrie, 18, with one of the two gold medals he won at the NJ Special Olympics held June 8-9 at The College of New Jersey. Moultrie won gold in the long jump and the 100-meter dash.

JOANNE DEGNAN/The Robbinsville Sun
Robbinsville High School student Quinten Moultrie, 18, with one of the two gold medals he won at the NJ Special Olympics held June 8-9 at The College of New Jersey. Moultrie won gold in the long jump and the 100-meter dash.

“Let me tell you, Saturday night we went to a Trenton Thunder game,” Moultrie said. “I yelled so loud, and oh my goodness, all the food that I could eat! I had a grilled chicken sandwich and chips and a soda and five minutes later here I am eating funnel cake,” he said laughing.

Participating in the games was exciting, but even more exciting was the roar of the crowd, the teens said. Moultrie said he could hear Schools Superintendent Steve Mayer and other teachers and friends cheering for him while he was doing the long jump and that energized him.

Kowalski said one of the other new initiatives started in conjunction with the Robbinsville Special Olympics Team was the high school’s new Special Olympics Project Unify Club, whose mission is to promote inclusion and acceptance within school communities.

“So now we have a lot of high school students coming out to volunteer at our practices, referee at our basket ball games, and officiate at track meets,” Kowalski said. “It’s really nice that my students in my class now often see peers cheering them on in the stands. The fostering of these friendships is so exciting to see.”

In March, the Special Olympics Project Unify Club at RHS took part in national Spread the Word to End the Word Day that aims to make people aware of the hurtfulness of the word “retarded,” which people use without realizing how offensive it is to those with intellectual disabilities, Kowalski said.

“Omar and Quinten wrote speeches about how hurtful the word is and how they don’t appreciate it when their peers use it, and they made these speeches at all three lunch periods,” Kowalski said. “They were very brave to do this and you could have heard a pin drop while they were speaking. Afterward the students gave them a standing ovation and many came up to shake their hands.”

The club made a banner and asked students to sign it and take a pledge not to use the R-word,  Kowalski said. The club also designed T-shirts that said ‘I Pledge to Respect Everyone’ and handed them out to students and staff in return for any donation large or small.

“We raised $800 that day through the T-shirts and donated the money back to Mercer County Special Olympics,” Kowalski said.

Kowalski said that better than the financial success of the fundraiser is the fact that, three months later, she still occasionally sees students wearing the pledge T-shirts in the hallways. What’s more, she said she has even overheard heard students on the athletic field admonishing others for an occasional accidental slip involving the R-word during games.

“The students, themselves, are becoming the advocates now, and that’s the best way to promote the message of inclusion and acceptance,” Kowalski said.

 

 


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