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Farmington Special Olympics team working for the fun

FARMINGTON — The Farmington Special Olympics team is hard at work training for a basketball competition to be held later this month.

The team has competed in track and field for years, adding bowling to its repertoire last fall. Cheryl Farris, the special education teacher for Farmington High School and the team’s director, decided to give basketball a shot.

“Bowling was over, so I thought, well we need to do something else,” Farris said.

Farmington’s team had 11 students sign-up to compete, from grades nine through 12. The team competition uses regular high school basketball rules and consists of tournament play. Three students will take part in individual competition, with scoring on such tasks as dribbling and shooting.

Farris had to be certified by the Special Olympics to be able to take part in the basketball competition, nothing new for this teacher of nearly 20 years. “So far, I’ve been certified in track and field, bowling, and now basketball,” Farris said.

Farris is helped by her father, Dr. Tom Huddleston, who is also certified by the Special Olympics, and has refereed high school basketball games and coached several basketball teams. The retired teacher and administrator works with the team.

“We’ve got a pretty athletic group of kids,” Huddleston said. “Our goal is to teach them to develop a rhythm so they don’t have to look down at the ball when they dribble.”

Farris is also aided by Alma Lorch, a Communication Arts teacher at Farmington High School, Becky Noble, Physical Education instructor at the high school, and high school junior Jenny Beffa.

The group just started its practices, which are twice a week for an hour each, in preparation for the district competition Feb. 15 at Springfield. If the team and individuals are successful, they earn a trip to Blue Springs for the state competition.

While in Springfield the team will stay at housing provided by the Special Olympics and will travel to and from the competition on a Farmington R-VII school bus, but the group will pay for the cost of the trip. The team is required to provide its own uniforms, and the group has been working to raise money to cover their expenses.

They bagged groceries the weekend before Thanksgiving at Country Mart as a fund-raiser and held a barbecue at Wal-Mart. The organization is working with the Farmington Police Department to hold a golf tournament “as soon as we can get a golf course and things together,” Farris said.

“It’s just so rewarding for these kids to participate in these competitive sports,” said Farris, using a blind participant who will take part in the dribbling competition as a sign of inspiration. “She’s a really good dribbler,” Farris said.

“I like working with these kids because they’re excited about learning,” said Farris, adding even the smallest aspect of learning can excite her students.

Noble agrees with Farris, believing the students are eager to participate. “We have such a good time and they’re so enthused,” Noble said.

As for the competition itself, Huddleston likes the team’s chances. “You just never know what your competition’s going to be,” he said. “So we hope we’re just as successful in basketball as we were in other sports.”

In their first year competing in bowling, the entire team came home with medals, just as they did last spring in track and field.

“The idea is to have fun, and whether we win, lose, or draw, we’re going to enjoy it,” Huddleston said.

To make a donation or for more information, contact Cheryl Farris at 701-1310 ext. 136.

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