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January 12, 2014

2,200 compete in Special Olympics

NORMAN — Loud cheers burst from proud parents and family members as one child scored a three-pointer, ending a basketball game in the second overtime.

This weekend, about 2,200 athletes gathered to compete in the Special Olympics for the 18th Annual Winter Games. Those competing in basketball joined at the University of Oklahoma’s Huston Huffman Center on Saturday.

“That one was a nail-biter,” said Donna Ham, Marketing and Communications Director for Special Olympics Oklahoma, after watching the basketball game that had just gone into two overtimes.

“That was like winning a gold medal,” said volunteer coach Amy Underhill after her team won.

The winning team playing that game was made up of a group of children from Noble, Purcell and Lexington areas, but there were several games going on simultaneously Saturday. The Huff Center was full of noise, from dribbling basketballs, referee whistles and cheering parents to chattering athletes.

Underhill has been involved in SOOK for 14 years, coaching several teams in both Summer and Winter Games.

“I enjoy the kids, the excitement of the kids, how they are able to participate in a sport and be successful like their peers at school,” Underhill said. “And the smiles on their faces, no matter the outcome.”

The game that sticks out the most in her mind after coaching 14 years was last year’s Championship Softball Game during the Summer Games.

“At Noble we’ve always been so close to the gold medal,” Underhill said. “It was my last year as a teacher and my Noble kids actually won the gold medal. And then my kids said, ‘This one’s for you Ms. Underhill.’”

Underhill said the kids are awesome and the participation seems to keep growing more each year.

“My dream job is one day we're gonna take these little guys and they're gonna go to World Games or National Games — that's our dream,” she said.

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