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Special Olympics swimmers bound for state championships
POULSBO — For 15-year-old swimmer Karissa Parypa, the trip from Cle Elum to Poulsbo is more than worthwhile.
Each year for the past two years, she has crossed the Cascades to live with her grandmother in Poulsbo for three months and compete as part of the North Kitsap Vikings Special Olympics Swimming Team.
“It’s just fun,” Parypa said of the team. “It’s something to do.”
Fifteen athletes from the swim team will compete at the Washington State Special Olympics Swimming Championships in Federal Way on June 5 and 6. The team is made up of athletes ages 10 to 33. Some, like Parypa, come from far away. Most live within the North Kitsap School District boundaries and are either current or former students. All of them gain more than just swimming skills by being on the team.
“If I’m part of this team, I just get happy,” Parypa said. “All my friends are here.”
The team also gives swimmers from other clubs, like 8-year-old Timothy Gallagher of the Poulsbo Piranhas, a chance to share their skills. Competing with kids like Timothy is something most of the athletes on the Viking team would not normally have the chance to do. Most of the swimmers don’t turn out for sports at school. So Timothy and his Piranhas teammates are valued assets for the Special Olympics team.
“He has the ability of going in and getting the kids to do flip-turns and things like that,” Viking swim coach Judy Chase said ofTimothy.
While the skills the Piranhas teach help the swimmers build confidence, the pool is first and foremost a place for the athletes to build relationships.
“The team has a lot of team spirit and does a good job of supporting one another,” Chase said.
Competing as part of the swim team also gives the athletes a chance to grow and learn life lessons.
“They learn that they can win,” Chase said. “They get to experience the joy of winning and at the same time, they get the experience of not winning.”
Many of the North Kitsap swimmers who competed at the April 18 regional swim championships qualified for the state competition, but some did not place high enough to move on. And that’s all part of the experience.
“They’re given so much, that they often don’t get the chance to fail. And that’s life,” Chase said. “That’s a huge life experience.”
The state Special Olympics Swimming Championships take place June 5-6 at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way. For more information on the Special Olympics, visit www.specialolympics.org.