June 20, 2019

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Special-needs athletes take on championships

Track and field event to host Special Olys

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/5/2015 (1503 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

BEN GUNNARSSON is totally pumped -- flying down a track can do that to you.

But he's even more pumped about his buddy Jack Funk, whom he calls Bolt, as in lightning.

"This is my great friend Jack; he's the fastest runner in the world," laughed Ben, hardly breathing heavily after sprinting 200 metres at the Grant Park High School track.

Jack's puffing a bit more, but he's pumped too: "I managed to get past Matt -- it was awesome!"

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/5/2015 (1503 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Ben and fellow athlete Jack Funk

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Ben and fellow athlete Jack Funk

BEN GUNNARSSON is totally pumped — flying down a track can do that to you.

But he's even more pumped about his buddy Jack Funk, whom he calls Bolt, as in lightning.

"This is my great friend Jack; he's the fastest runner in the world," laughed Ben, hardly breathing heavily after sprinting 200 metres at the Grant Park High School track.

Jack's puffing a bit more, but he's pumped too: "I managed to get past Matt — it was awesome!"

'I can't wait for next week; that's the track showdown. I'm excited about my first-ever track and field showdown' — Jack Funk

Matt would be Matt Lavendero, and along with Alvin Agcaoili and Brett Haystead, Ben and Jack and Matt will be wearing Pirates colours in the first Special Olympics at next month's provincial high school track and field championships.

photos by MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
ABOVE: Ben Gunnarsson trains on the field beside Grant Park High School. LEFT: Ben and fellow athlete Jack Funk.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

photos by MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ABOVE: Ben Gunnarsson trains on the field beside Grant Park High School. LEFT: Ben and fellow athlete Jack Funk.

Intellectually challenged students will compete in the 100 and 200 metres and the shot put.

Not out of breath, not at all, but Ben was bending his knees enthusiastically: "Flex these muscles so you don't get injured," he explained.

Phys-ed teacher Bobbi Milberg said her special-education students have been working out in gym class, and five will go to the provincials.

Meanwhile, Grant Park hosts a meet Wednesday, which is expected to draw more than 100 special-needs athletes.

Jack is counting the days.

"I can't wait for next week; that's the track showdown. I'm excited about my first-ever track and field showdown," he enthused.

Jack's best event is the standing long jump, which won't be contested at the provincials.

Manitoba High Schools Athletics Association executive director Morris Glimcher said everyone involved in high school sports is enthusiastic about trying a special-education category for the first time. It could lead to additional events and to an expansion into wheelchair and other physically challenged categories in future, he said.

The MHSAA track and field finals go June 4 to 6 at the University of Manitoba.

"It was a perfect opportunity for our students," Milberg said.

Grant Park has extensive athletics programs for its special-needs students, she pointed out.

"We had Special Olympics basketball" earlier this year, Milberg said, and yes, Ben was a scoring and rebounding machine, not so much passing, said Ben with a grin.

"We tried to do snowshoeing, but there wasn't enough snow," said Milberg.

And, sadly, the students were planning to go to Toronto for a Special Olympics bocce tournament, which has been cancelled by the teachers strike in Ontario.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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