Special Olympics swimmers fare well at first meet

(Submitted photo) Ronald Kinney, swimming in the bottom lane, competes in one of his events at a recent Special Olympics swim meet, his first as a competitor.

ST. STEPHEN – Special Olympics athletes in the swim program at the Garcelon Civic Center attended their first meet recently.

Ronald Kinney and Kevin Clark, two swimmers from the nine-person team, attended the meet in Saint John.

“They did quite well,” said centre aquatics manager Aaron Muzzatti.

Kinney was entered in between two and four events, while Clark competed in six.

“Kevin was placing no lower than fourth,” said Muzzatti. “I believe he came second and first in a couple of his groups, (a) very good showing.”

The program, which launched last November, is the first Special Olympics-affiliated program at the Garcelon and the Saint John meet was their first invitational. The program will expand to be open to more age groups. Currently the program is open to those 18 and over.

“We’re starting a youth division,” said Muzzatti.

He said they wanted to start with an older age group to see what kind of response they would get and help ensure they had enough coaches to work with the athletes.

The program is opening to those 12 and older with the hope to add ages 10 and up, then eight and up in the next few years.

(Submitted photo) Kevin Clark, left, and Ronald Kinney participated in their first Special Olympics swim meet recently. It was also the first event for the St. Stephen team since forming last November.

“We still have to get some new coaches trained and get everybody prepped,” he said, adding they will go from two coaches currently to four or five within the next few months.

Muzzatti has the coaches lined up, but they’re also interested in having volunteers available to work with the team.

“Individuals who might have some background in competitive swimming or lifeguarding,” said Muzzatti. People who have swimming experience from triathlons would also be welcome.

Volunteers can be assigned to work with an individual athlete on specific skills. He said they like to find a good match between the athlete and volunteer in order to develop a bond and a consistent working relationship.

“We’re trying to get some more volunteers so we can continue to build more one-on-one rapport,” he explained.

The program is continuing at the Garcelon Civic Center until the end of June when it will move to the outdoor pool in Milltown for the summer. The current group meets on Tuesdays, 6:15-7:15 p.m. Depending on interest from the younger age group, they may add a second night on Wednesday.