Hays Heat Athletes Compete in Special Olympics


Avery Humphries

Johnson athletes entering the gym at their pep rally.

Avery Humphries, Staff Writer

The Hays Heat district-wide Special Olympics team participated in a successful meet on April 22, and a pep rally was held for competing Johnson athletes on April 21. The meet was held at McNeil High School and included special education students from ages 8 to 18.

“It went well, but it was a long day because they’re all scheduled at different times,” special education teacher Alexis Montemayor said. “We did fairly well. Lots of gold, lots of silver.”

At the meet, Special Olympics participants competed in an array of events, including track-and-field, long jump, and other events facilitated to the athletes’ needs. Hays Heat athletes brought home many wins with the support of their friends and family. 

“It’s just fun ‘cause they’re all looking out for each other,” Montemayor said. “While they’re waiting for an event and they see their friend already racing or doing something else, and they’re cheering from wherever like, ‘Go, go, go, you got this!’.”

Freshman Alana Snider-Cunningham competed in both the long jump and 100-meter-dash. 

“People call me ‘The Flash’ for a good reason. I can’t really tell you cause it’s a secret,” Snider-Cunningham said. “At the Special Olympics, I got coffee and stuff so I could wake up so my body doesn’t feel all tired. I wasn’t really nervous, more like, nervous like you have something to do or something.”

Montemayor is the lead teacher of the special education students at Johnson. She works with all high school ages, and a variety of different disabilities. Some students require more or less educational and communicational aids than others.

“We have kiddos who need higher levels of support, and other kiddos who don’t need support, they’re a lot more dependent,” Montemayor said. “We have kids who use sign, kids who use devices, and kids who are verbal and communicate in a ‘traditional’ way.”

The Unified Champions club was formed this past summer with the goal of creating an inclusive community for disabled students at Johnson. They have planned many activities over the year, including Special Olympics events. 

“[These kids] are all so intelligent and smart,” senior Unified Champions member Olivia Owen said. “They can do all the same things other people can do, and each one of them has a different amazing personality. Getting to know each one of them has been amazing for me.”