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Special Olympics athletes ready to compete

2/7/2014

By ELIZABETH GOLDEN

egolden@dailynews.net

The Special Olympics Kansas west area regional basketball and cheerleading tournaments will be Saturday in Plainville. Teams from Hays, Great Bend, Russell and Solomon Valley will compete.

The day will be comprised of an opening ceremony, followed by cheerleading, basketball individual skills and basketball team skills.

More than 150 athletes are scheduled to compete, 37 of whom are from Solomon Valley.

Solomon Valley is hosting the games for the fourth year.

Dave Van Schuyver, coach of the Solomon Valley Team and president of the Solomon Valley ARC Larks, said the athletes will compete in slightly modified basketball games.

"They're similar to high school rules," he said. "The only difference is they have a continuance except for the last minute of each quarter. Then it's a dead-ball situation on the whistle."

The quarters also run six minutes as opposed to the traditional eight minutes. This year, Special Olympics has added another division. The new division is created for low-motor schools. The basket has been lowered 2 feet.

The teams qualified for the regional tournament through practices. All teams who practice were qualified.

"They have to practice," Van Schuyver said. "We practice every Sunday, and we've had a total of five practices. All regional scores are sent to Kansas City at the state office, and that's where they will bracket the teams."

Van Schuyver said they probably will practice another five times before the state tournament in March.

As a parent of a special-needs child, Van Schuyver has been involved in Special Olympics coaching for 28 years.

"My son started with the Special Olympics when he was 8," he said.

His wife, as well as his children and grandchildren, also is involved.

"It's a family event for us," Van Schuyver said.

The entire tournament is run by volunteers.

"I oversee that everything is on time," Van Schuyver said. "I assign different people to be in charge of different skills. My wife and I flow back and forth between the two gyms to make sure everything runs smoothly."

The event will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday in Plainville. The events are free.

"It's a great event," Van Schuyver said. "It's fun for everyone to come out and watch the smiles take place."