Hays Heat returns to competition after 2 year break


Sydney Smith

Sophomore Orion Tipton walks into the pep rally honoring the Hays Heat team members with fellow sophomore Aniah McRea. The Hays Heat returned to the Special Olympics Competition after a two year break because of Covid.

Daniella Moreno, Staff Writer

The cheer team paved the way as the athletes ran through the paper sign and were welcomed into the gym. Students and parents piled together in the stands, holding signs and cheering them on by holding their hands up in the air, waving back and forth.  The Hays Heat Special Olympic Team took it all in, along with their chant of “the Hays Heat can’t be beat!”

On April 9, at Bible Stadium in Leander, the Hays Heat team participated in the Special Olympics. They competed in the spring track and field events. 

“It was great,” sophomore and Hays Heat team member Jonathan Lebron said. “Everyone did good.”

Jonah Schafer, Mario Uribe, Jackson Bowman, Michael George and Katherine Aguirre won gold in the 100 meter dash. Gabriel Mason and Jackson Bowman won gold for the Turbo Javelin while Nolan Wright won gold in the Softball Throw event. 

“This was Johnson’s debut to our district team,” Foundational Learning teacher Alexis Montemayor said. “My kids worked hard. Here they are kicking’ butts and taking names!”

The Hays Heat team was able to compete in the Special Olympics after a two year break because of COVID-19. One hundred and thirty students from Hays CISD were in the competition, and 12 of them came from Johnson. 

“I feel proud of them everyday,” sophomore and student from Peer Support class Aniah McRea said. “Since the beginning of the year, they’ve definitely grown.”

Out of only four students lighting the torch at the opening ceremony Gabe Mason, senior and Special Olympics participant, was one of them. 

“He worked so hard,” Montemayor said. “I can only imagine how awesome it must have felt.”

Gabe has been competing in the Special Olympics since he could qualify for it. He said he’s the oldest in the group and that he’s been on the team the longest. 

“He was actually the first kiddo, from Johnson, to be able to get a letterman for the Special Olympics, which is pretty cool,” Montemayor said. “ I think he’s just the perfect representative for a lot of firsts for us through Johnson.”

The students started their training around the second week of February. Coach Hartman, one of three coaches of the Hays Heat team, said that at first it was hard for them to get back on track after being out for two years.  

“It was also so exciting to see everyone and have so many new athletes,” Hartman said. “Once we got started we remembered our routine and how we did things.”

To show their support and to celebrate Hays Heat, there was a pep rally hosted on April 8. Long-term sub Stephanie Melton attended the pep rally. 

“It was so exciting and I thought ‘I’m just going to have to see them compete [now],’ ”  Melton said.

For kids to be able to compete in the Special Olympics, they have to be 8 years old. According to the Special Olympics website, participants must be identified by a professional as having one of the following conditions: intellectual disabilities, cognitive delays as measured by formal assessment, significant learning or vocational problems due to cognitive delays that require or have required specifically designed instruction.

“They were really excited because they don’t get opportunities like that often,” McRea said. “So whenever they do have them, they’re really excited and it’s beautiful. It really is.”