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July 22, 2009 > Special Olympics team wins accolades

Special Olympics team wins accolades

By Meenu Gupta
Photos By Courtesy of Chris Valuckas

Union City's 2009 Special Olympics Basketball Team was honored by Council on July 14 for their gold and silver medals at the Special Olympics Northern California Basketball Championships held March 28-29. This was a challenging but successful year for both of the City's Special Olympics basketball teams that played in more competitive divisions this year.

"Our Level 5 team took Gold in the Northern California Championships while our Level 4 team took home the Silver. Individual athletes also did very well in the state championships taking home five individual gold medals," said Chris Valuckas, Recreation Supervisor, Union City Leisure Services.

"Our program continues to grow every year and we added even more basketball players this past season. To accommodate our growing team, practices moved to the new Union City Sports Center. This helped our teams tremendously because the top notch and larger practice facilities allowed our athletes and coaches to have top notch practices." There were four new coaches to train the athletes to compete in the tougher divisions.

"Next year's goals are simple. We'll continue to practice and improve the basketball program then show off all of our hard work at the two tournaments in which we compete annually. I also envision more athletes and coaches again for the upcoming season. This growth is good because it means we're reaching as many special needs athletes in the Tri-City area that love to play basketball."

In 2009, Special Olympics Northern California and Union City Leisure Services partnered to provide sports programs for developmentally disabled athletes, aged eight and up, in Union City. The Union City basketball team is one of the most popular.

Since the Union City Basketball team's inception, the number of participants has grown from less than ten to more than 40 athletes. There is a Level 4 basketball team, a Level 5 basketball team, the skills team and the coaches. Both Levels 4 and 5 teams took home gold medals at the Jack Capon Memorial Basketball Tournament in Alameda in February. They won gold and silver medals, respectively, at the Special Olympics Northern California Basketball Championships in Pleasanton on the weekend of March 28-29.

Each member of the gold medal-winning skills team is scored on their passing, dribbling and shooting, ability. The six dedicated and skilled volunteer coaches are behind both the basketball teams' and the skills team's successes.

Mayor Mark Green issued proclamations to honor and recognize the following athletes:

Basketball Team 1 (Level 4) - Jourdan Alberto, Emerald Brown, Donald Frazier, Edward Han, Erica Lamm, Anthony McIntyre, Jonathan Nguyen, Daryn Smith and Chelsea Sterritt Wren.

Basketball Team 2 (Level 5) - Roger Anglin, Jesus Deleon, Alexis Douglas, Andy Fine, Debra Lee, Michelle Lee, Ryan Minni, Kristin O'Rourke, Sebastian Torres and William Turner.

Skills Basketball Team - Alex Hovan, Renee Pearls, Shannon Caldwell, Christy Eddy and Justin Marrero.

Coaches - Alma Gomez, Kasey Light, Don Frazier, Bob Fine, Robert Nguyen and Monica Segot.

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