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March 11, 2013

Special Olympians, volunteers winners in their own right

They lost two out of three, but they won in the end.

Ten Newburyport athletes made the trip down to Worcester on Saturday to take on three formidable teams in just over five hours in the Special Olympics state basketball tournament; and even if the game results weren’t what they were hoping for, the weekend away made up for it.

“The kids were great, they had a really fun time,” said head coach Lori Solazzo. “It’s more about the relationships and friendships they are building than the basketball. They definitely learned some skills, but we’re in it just to let the kids have a really fun time.”

Judging by the reaction of the players — Adam Kapp, Kaleigh “K” Alexander, David Junkins, Jared Bedard, Natasha Harwood, Ben Jansson, Stuart Linenfelser, Amanda Kelleher, Tyler Rivera and Eoin Robertson — that good time was achieved and then some.

“It was fantastic,” said Linenfelser. “They were great games.”

“I made a lot of shots,” bragged Alexander. “That’s about it.”

Accompanying Linenfelser and his fellow athletes were a large group of unified partners — Jordy Steelman, Connor Glynn, Adam Traxler, Brandon and Evan Trego, Nina Harrington, Maggie Willingham, Catherine and Ashley Casellini, David Henderson, Cameron St. Onge, Emma Adams, Alex Edwards, Jenna Gabriel, Cole Lewis and Peter Blangiardi. Many of the partners are varsity NHS athletes themselves who taught the athletes some of their skills and made sure everyone had a good time.

“Even though we did lose every game,” said Henderson, a junior, “everyone had fun. Everyone had a blast. And that’s really all that matters in the end. It was a good time for everyone.”

“We did so good,” said freshman athlete Bedard. “I got a 3-pointer.”

Steelman was quick to point out that Bedard had in fact six three-pointers on the day.

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