By Lauren Wanko
The energy on the volleyball court this morning was exhilarating. Crowds cheered on the athletes who could hardly contain their excitement after winning their final game at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games.
“I just feel amazing. This is just the best thing I have ever done and I love my team dearly,” said Team Wisconsin volleyball player Jessica Harter.
“It doesn’t get any better to see these young people come together and play as a team,” said Team Wisconsin Coach John Hough.
Both Team Wisconsin and Team Illinois won the gold for their divisions.
“I’m bringing the championship home to Chicago, Illinois,” said volleyball player Jelani Allen.
This morning, 10 teams from five different divisions have been fighting for the gold. Team Connecticut and Team Rhode Island fought for the championship. So far Rhode Island is undefeated.
After the games, state pride radiated throughout the theater as Team Rhode Island Division 1 Unified went undefeated and was awarded the gold. The medal ceremony marked the culmination of nearly a year’s worth of countless practice hours and sacrifice. These athletes were determined to compete. This was their moment. Some humbly bowed to their fans. Others kissed their medal. Many excitedly threw their arms in the air.
As for the Garden State’s athletes, Team New Jersey Division 3 Volleyball is taking home the gold.
Their excitement was contagious.
“It makes me feel very proud and excited for all my teammates just to win the gold for me,” said Team New Jersey player Ian Hudacko.
“It feels great to bring home the gold medal, or stay here and have the gold medal,” said Team New Jersey Coach Kate Maloney Allen.
“It makes me proud because all the work we do, people who are handicapped cannot do anything, but we can do anything we put our minds to. It’s not about being handicapped, it’s about being smart. Handicapped people are number one,” said Team New Jersey player Ed Murtagh.
When asked how long he’s going to have the gold medal around his neck, Hudacko said, “Forever!”
“God Bless America and God Bless New Jersey,” Team New Jersey player Murtagh said.
Team New Jersey’s celebrating tonight and most likely until the next Special Olympics USA Games.