By: Jen Russon
Athletes representing J.P. Taravella High School were in the spotlight this year when the Trojans’ Unified Basketball Team won a gold medal at the Special Olympics state regional competition.
A’Ja Freeman, Madison Frost, Juan Lopez, and Ernesto Lopez were awarded the medals after a slam dunk performance at the ESPN World Wide Sports Complex in Orlando.
The four were led to victory by coaches Candy Allen and Ken Kowalski.
“The kids practiced weekly during the fall and continued to develop their skills throughout the season,” said Allen, adding the game was played 3-on-3, featuring fancy footwork from players with and without disabilities.
Freeman, Frost, Juan Lopez, and Ernesto Lopez competed against hundreds of student-athletes, representing just one sports category among 20 in the Special Olympics — an iconic and socially inclusive sports event captivating spectators since 1968.
The Trojans’ gold medal performances at the February 26 state regional competition stood out amongst other Olympians competing in basketball games that ran the gambit between traditional five-versus-five male and female teams, Unified Team Competition, and interscholastic and intercollegiate games.
With a gold medal under their belts, Allen confirmed the students have begun training for the unified volleyball season and have the additional win of a first-place ribbon to crow about.
Coach Allen said their boys’ Unified basketball team won a first-place ribbon at the Special Olympics county level.
He added that the kids are practicing once a week, building both strong muscles and strong friendships.
“The team is looking forward to the Area Competition at Nova Southeastern University. A win in their division will give them a strong chance of advancing to the State Games in May at Disney World,” said Allen.
Check back on April 23 for news on this next Special Olympics event.
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- Jen Russon has been a staff writer for Talk Media since 2018. She is also a novelist, copywriter and editor at Swallow Publishing, LLC.
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