INSIDE SOSC: Surrounded in Support

This week’s installment of INSIDE SOSC takes you to the Regional Spring Games competitions in San Luis Obispo and Murrieta, respectively.

An amazing Opening Ceremony set the tone at the San Luis Obispo Regional Spring Games, and an independent, strong swimmer was among the highlights at the Inland Empire Regional Spring Games.

PHOTOS: 2018 San Luis Obispo Regional Spring Games

PHOTOS: 2018 Inland Empire Regional Spring Games

2018 San Luis Obispo Regional Spring Games

The spring regional competition in San Luis Obispo is unique. For one, it is on a Friday every year and the community program competitions are combined with the local school game competitions. Add to that this year the fun of May 4th (May the fourth be with you…), it made the day unforgettable.

However, what makes this regional competition unique is the Opening Ceremony.

Cramming the Cuesta College gym to the gills, more than 500 SOSC Athletes and several thousand volunteers, family members, law enforcement officers and supporters cheer and dance for over an hour to get the games started in roaring fashion.

As the day began, Scott Cusick kept those filling the gym in high spirits. The California Men’s Colony Honor Guard started the morning, followed by one of the more impressive Parade of Athletes you will see, complete of local sports teams, including Cal Poly football, forming the high-five line.

“I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” said Cusick, who is works for a local radio station and has been doing this for 14 years. “I have the first Friday of May circled on my calendar every year. This is a highlight.”

Athlete Ares Caldwell of Atascadero High School performed the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by fellow athlete  Julianna Honea from the local program the “Independents” performing the National Anthem.

Cuesta College President Gil Storke welcomed the crowd, followed by award presentations. Cody Smith of Monterey Road Elementary was named Most Inspirational Athlete and Dalton Smith of Templeton High School was named Most Supportive Athlete.

Before the Special Olympics Oath, which was was led by Lexxi Colwell of Lewis Middle School, Jani Johnson got everyone’s blood moving. She led the crowd of more than 3,000 to “Turn Up the Love.” For more than three minutes the entire gym was dancing and singing together.

Then came the Flame of Hope.  Law Enforcement Torch Run representatives San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson was escorted by San Luis Obispo Police Department Motor Officer Paul Sisemore into the gym. Bringing in the torch with Sheriff Parkinson was athletes John Neall (Nipomo High School), Aiden Cronauer (Templeton Middle School), Destry Twedell (Grover Beach Elementary), Kai Castillo (Grover Heights Elementary), and Wyatt Sweeney (San Luis Obispo High School).

The Opening Ceremony came to a close when athlete Rick Barnes stated, “Let the games begin!”

2018 Inland Empire Regional Spring Games

At Vista Murrieta High School, approximately 400 athletes were in attendance to compete in basketball, swimming, and track and field events.

STORY Riley Culp

Riley Culp collects the first of four medals on the day at the 2018 Inland Empire Regional Spring Games.

Athletes like Riley Culp of Temecula braved the 92-degree heat and racked up medals all afternoon. The 22-year-old swimmer won two golds (50-meter freestyle and breaststroke), a silver (100-meter individual medley) and a bronze (4×50-meter freestyle relay).

Out of the pool, Riley is a “strong, independent woman,” said her mother, Jamey. In fact, immediately after the competition, it was off to work for Riley.

Riley, in her third year with Special Olympics Southern California, also plays soccer. Jamey said the “super positive” environment gives her daughter a confidence boost.

“She’s around people who are supportive,” Jamey said. “[The athletes] feel accepted.

“They’re getting a chance to do the best they can and be successful.”

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