A special day for Special Olympians

A team of Special Olympics basketball athletes and cheerleaders were joined by their peer buddies for an assortment of competitions and a basketball game. Several members of the Iola Special Olympics and Unified Sports Team received gold medals for their efforts.


February 15, 2024 - 3:09 PM

Kason Botts, from left, a member of the Iola Special Olympics Unified Sports Team, gets a high five from peer buddy Reese Curry after the Iola squad scores in a game Tuesday at Pittsburg. Courtesy photo

PITTSBURG — A group of Iola students enjoyed a day of cooperation and competition Tuesday, and made history in the process.

Iola’s Special Olympics and Unified Sports teams traveled to the campus of Pittsburg State University Tuesday to participate in the SEK regional basketball and cheerleading competition.

Unified Mustangs cheer teams. Courtesy photo

The cheer competition started the proceedings.

Iola’s cheer team was made up of peer buddies Marlee and Kenleigh Westhoff and athletes Phoenix and Eryx Means, Zoey and Rosetta Kile and Breah Jones. 

The peer buddies taught and practiced with the athletes a routine over the last month.

The hard hard work paid off with a gold medal. 

Iola Special Olympics Unified Sports team members pose with their gold medals after game against Uniontown. Courtesy photo

BASKETBALL athletes followed with an individual skills competition, including a speed dribble, spot shot, and target passing stations. 

Athletes accumulated points at each station based on their performance, then their scores were tabulated for their overall medal results

Iola’s results follow:

High School —  Guilis Pina, second; Vernon Klinzman, third; Weston Helman, first; Xavior Burrow, fourth; Blayne Endicott, first; Enzy Mynatt, first.

Middle School — Aiden Fraker, first; Nick Stogsdill, first; Jacob Catron, third; Kobear Smith, second; Jenny Kile, first; Karlie Audiss, second; Luke Pitts, first; Kason Botts, second; Joseph Gardner, first. 

Elementary — Gabe Jones, second; Braxton Valentine, second; Brier Valentine, first; Zoey Kile, first; Rosetta Kile, first. 

Courtesy photo

IOLA’S squad also made a bit of history as one of the first teams in southeast Kansas to participate in a unified basketball game.

Team members were Weston Helman, Guilis Pina, Nick Stogsdill, Jenny Kile, Karlie Audiss, Luke Pitts, Kason Botts and Joseph Gardner; and peer buddies Lucas Maier, Cortland Carson, Reese Curry and Kyndal Bycroft battled it out against Uniontown’s unified team and came out on top in a 16-12 victory.

The team earned gold medals for the win.

“It was an amazing day of competition and inclusion,” Iola’s coach Ann Bates said. “Everyone had fun, did their best, and came home with some hardware.”

Iola’s team wil be back in action at the end of March for a unified cornhole event in Girard. 

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