Posted by: sonewjersey | August 18, 2010

Guest Post- Special Olympics USA National Games (by SONJ Athlete blogger, Bobby Fredericks)

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I’m back with another blog, but this time it’s about our trip to the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games in Lincoln, Nebraska and about all the fun we had.

The trip started on Saturday, July 17th where all of Team New Jersey met at Atlantic City International Airport. The first thing we had to do was organize our luggage and there was a lot of luggage and a lot of excited athletes and coaches. The plane took off on time and we were officially on our way to the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games at the University of Nebraska. Everyone enjoyed the flight and we even had cupcakes for a few birthdays. I sat with my track teammates and coaches. My friend Christina recorded a good part of our flight with my digital camera which was fine by me since she was sitting by the window. After a three hour flight, the pilot announced that we were beginning our descent into Lincoln, Nebraska. That meant that we were all that much closer to the Games. It was really cool when the Nebraska National Guard met us in the terminal and helped us with our luggage by loading it into our very own UPS truck. They even brought our luggage to our dorm, Cather Hall. Before we even unpacked, we already met athletes from Florida and Tennessee. We had dinner and the food was really good. After dinner, Coach Hanko took us to see the track stadium and staging areas. We were all psyched when we saw it. It even had a huge scoreboard and it was right next to the famous Cornhusker Football Stadium. We couldn’t wait to set foot on the track. Our next stop was back to the dorm to rest up for our big week. We had to get up at 5:30am central time (6:30am back in NJ) for team practice the next day.

On day two, we were up at 5:30 am (6:30am back in NJ), had breakfast and then made our way over to the track for practice but since there was a thunderstorm we went inside to wait out the weather, not a good sign for our first day at the track. Luckily, it didn’t last long. Practice went well, and it was really cool to run at the Ed Wier track stadium and it was the only time that our coaches were allowed to be on the track. Coach Hanko and Coach Monaco thought it was really cool and had as much fun as we were having. After practice was over we returned to our dorm, ate lunch and had to get ready for opening ceremonies in the evening. All of the athletes were excited because we were all waiting for this for a long time. Our Team NJ uniforms for the parade of athletes were really nice. I even still wear my Team NJ hat every day.
Opening ceremonies was awesome. I was happy because I got to see my police officer buddies, Larry Mays and Bill Zika who were part of the final leg of the Torch Run. They are part of the “Gitmo Gang” that I was with when I ran the torch run in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Bill was really excited to carry the NJ banner while leading us into the arena for the parade of athletes. We had a lot of special guests such as Andy Roddick, Eddie Barbanell and Brooklyn Decker. Rachel McCluskey who was only 16 years old sang a song called “Be A Fan” which was written just for National Games. This song had everyone in the arena out of their seats and ROCKIN’. It was also a favorite of everyone who was there. My other favorite song was “Watch Me” by Michael Sarver from American Idol Season 8 because of the fact that even though it wasn’t written about Special Olympics it sure did speak the truth about it. When I got home, I downloaded it to my iPod and it’s tops on my most played list. There were a lot of special guests and music, like Jars of Clay, and if I wrote about all of them this blog would become the never-ending blog ! There was a really moving tribute to Eunice Kennedy Shriver (the founder of Special Olympics), so moving in fact that I felt a hole in the pit of my stomach because of the fact that I got to meet Eunice Kennedy Shriver, an awesome person, when she came to New Jersey to the dedication of Special Olympics New Jersey’s sports and training center which was the first sports building of it’s kind to be named after her. Tim Shriver (Eunice’s son and the President of Special Olympics International) gave a great speech and also declared the games opened. This meant that it was now SHOWTIME!!

Afterward, we went back to the dorm and hung out and played games and listened to music. We were still in party mode but since we had preliminary races the next day, it was time for lights out… once I finished charging the battery for my camera which Christina hijacked and had been taking pictures and video since the start of our trip (In fact, the only time I’d see my camera was when she needed the batteries charged). So off to sleep we went, very excited for another big day.

We started day three by waking up at 5:30AM AGAIN! Breakfast was scrambled eggs, pancakes and sausage which were really good. Before we left for the track, we had to take care of any “last minute details”. We were excited, anxious and ready to run. The prelims were “VERY” important because they would determine our divisions for finals later in the week. We had a great first day of preliminaries but the competition was tough. Victoria came in first in her 400m walk, Traci and Carol were in the same 400M race. Traci finished first and Carol finished in fourth. Mark did really well in his 400m race. I ran my 400m in 1:14.47, a personal best for me. Right after that I ran the 200m dash in 35.42. Running two races back to back in really hot weather isn’t easy. After prelims were over, we returned to our dorm to have dinner and head over to Special Olympics Town. Christina STILL had my camera and taking lots of pictures, which is okay by me. At Special Olympics Town we met Michael Sarver from American Idol who performed at opening ceremonies last night. We got to talk with him, get his autograph, and had a team picture taken with him. I thanked him for coming to Nationals and for supporting Special Olympics. On our way back to our dorm Coach Hanko treated the team to ice cream Next up was back to the dorm, we listened to music, played some games and then it was time to call it another night for another big day.

On day four, wake up time was, you guessed it, 5:30AM AGAIN!! We had breakfast, returned to our rooms briefly to collect our backpacks, hats and sunglasses and headed over to the track. This was another big day for prelims. Christina ran her 1500m (3 ¾ laps) in 7:22.48 minutes. Right after she finished, we had the 4×100 Relay which is our favorite because it involves everyone working together as at team. Christina, Traci, Mark, and I ran in a time of 1:13.68 which was better than our last practice time of 1: 21.10. We were lucky because a brief thunderstorm came through right after Victoria’s 800m walk. After the storm passed, it was time for Traci, Carol and I to race the 100m dash. All of our times were fast and we were ready for finals. It was another long day at the track, but it was fun and worth it. It was great because all of our parents were there in the stands cheering all of us on.

Next stop was dinner. I should mention that the food was good no matter what meal it was. After dinner we returned to our rooms so that we could get ready for bed because wake-up was going to be at 5AM (not 5:30) so that meant no partying. We had to be at our best because the next day was finals which meant that races, medals, and Team NJ/State pride were officially on the line.

Day five started at 5AM. We had breakfast, returned to our rooms to collect our stuff only to find out that it was pouring rain but thankfully the sun came out just in time for Christina to race her 5000m (12 ½ laps around the track) in which she finished a close second with a time of 29:36.95. It was an exciting race and we were with Coach Hanko cheering her on. Victoria had her shot put event and took fourth with a distance of 4.44 meters and second on the 400m meter walk with a time of 3:35.64 seconds. Mark and I had to race each other at the 400m dash in which Mark picked up the team’s first gold medal of the games and I came in fifth. In their 400m races, Traci came from fourth to earn the silver after passing several runners while going around the final bend. Carol ran her best race and got the silver in her 400m race too. After receiving our awards, Traci and Carol had to return to the staging tent for their 200m race where they had to race each other. Traci got the silver with a time of 48.15 and Carol came in fourth (right behind Traci in a VERY close battle for 3rd) with a time of 54.71. Later it was time for me to race the 200m dash in which I had to race with runners from Ohio, Illinois, Nebraska and Iowa. I was excited to get the silver (and my first medal of the games) with a time of 31.97. The best part was that I made friends with the athletes in my heat and we still keep in touch. That night we had the same routine, back to the dorm, dinner and off to sleep for the next day of competition which includes my personal favorite, the 4×100 relay.

On day six we were up at 5AM AGAIN and we had breakfast at 5:30AM AGAIN!! We headed off to the track early for Christina’s 3000m (7 ½ laps) in which she received the silver medal with a time of 16:14.03. Right after her medal ceremony, it was time for my favorite event…. THE 4×100 RELAY. It was an exciting race since it was a very close one, and best of all we won the gold with a time of 1:11.52. It was the best event of the week since we did it as a team. Everyone contributed and it was great to hear our fans in the stands cheering us on. Best of all, it was great to see our parents waiting for us at the finish line along with Matt and Jeff (our Head Delegates for Team New Jersey), Carmen Bannon, Marc Edenson (President and CEO of Special Olympics New Jersey) and his daughter AJ were at the end of the track cheering and I got to high five them upon completing the race. Coach Hanko and Coach Monaco were very excited that we won with our best time ever. After the relay we still had a lot of events left. Mark won gold in the 800m with a time of 2:57.54. Afterwards it was time for Traci, Carol, and I to race the 100m dash. Traci took fourth with a time of 22.71, Carol came in fifth with a time of 21.17 and I took gold with a time of 15.38 seconds. After the 100m races were completed, it was time for Christina and Mark to race the 1500m (3¾ laps) in which Christina received the silver medal with a time of 7:37.08 and Mark received the bronze medal with a time of 6:40.27. After the awards ceremonies were over, we took a lot of team pictures and celebrated, and then realized that the competition was over. We went to dinner and FINALLY got to have soda for the first time since arriving at National Games. Now the next day was free time and since we were finished with Track & Field it meant that we could stay up as late as we wanted and PARTY!! We even got to sleep late (as if having to wake up at 7am is being able to sleep late). All of the team members and coaches were very excited about this!

On day seven, we got to sleep until 7AM Today we were headed to the UNL campus athletic store and bookstore. The place was huge and we bought some UNL souvenirs. Oh, I finally got my camera back from Christina. We got some good pictures of Coach Monaco and Traci wearing the UNL Cornhuskers corn head hats. It was hilarious! Then we were off to Lincoln Southeast High School to watch the much anticipated gold medal basketball game between Team New Jersey basketball team and Team Missouri. It was a great game especially because Team NJ won the gold in a very close game (33-30). I wish we had more time to see some of the other sports but when you participate in track and field you are at the track ALL DAY !
Afterwards, we met up with the bowling team for lunch/dinner at Spaghetti Works where I had the spaghetti feast (which was really good). In fact, we all had a feast! Later it was back to the dorm to pack and get ready for closing ceremonies. Closing ceremonies was awesome, it was like a rock concert with everyone dancing and singing. When they went to officially close the games and extinguish the cauldron, Christina and I yelled “NO, PLEASE DON’T DO IT”. We didn’t want the games to end because we were having so much fun and still wanted to run. Now it was time to get ready for tomorrow morning and the flight home!

On the last morning, guess what time we had to get up . . . . . . 5:30AM! The National Guard loaded our luggage back onto the UPS truck for the trip to the airport while we left on the bus. Once airborne, Christina went to open her bottle of Coke and because it got shaken from our take-off it sprayed all over the two of us. She felt so bad about but I told her that it was okay because that’s what friends are for.  I would have to say that the coolest part about being at National Games for the week was making friends with Brandon, Nick, Cody, and Justin from Team Tennessee who were on my floor as well as the rest of Team New Jersey. I also made friends with Jessica from Oklahoma, and Caitlin from Vermont. Also on this trip I became really close friends with my teammates, Christina, Traci, Victoria, Carol, and Mark. I enjoyed being with the coolest coaches, Coach Hanko and Coach Monaco. They worked really hard for us and I learned a lot from them and I hope that we stay close friends forever.

On behalf of my teammates on Team New Jersey I would like to thank SONJ for the chance to compete, Special Olympics North America, the Games Operating Committee, University of Nebraska, and the City of Lincoln, Nebraska for having us and more importantly inviting us to the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games. I think I speak for athletes all over the USA, when I say that this was one experience that NONE of us will ever forget. I know that I will always remember this experience forever!

Next up is Volleyball season; at least we won’t have to get up at 5AM to play!

Thanks Bobby for this great post, and congrats on your (and your team member’s) medals!

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Responses

  1. I saw your post and I really liked it it must have been fun meeting alot of nice people

  2. What a fantastic experience! So proud of all of you! See you at volleyball.

  3. Bobby what a great blog!!! You should keep it up. I could handle some daily updates in all things Bobby Fredericks. Congratulations on the GREAT showing you and the rest of our NJ athletes made in Nebraska. The Mays family is extremely proud of ALL of you and of course especially you buddy. You have been an inspiration to all of us. God Bless you guys!!!

  4. It was alot of fun ! I hope I get to represent New Jersey again the next time there is a National Games !

    • Did you knock the foundation off the University of Nebraska for me buddy ? By the way, congrats buddy on all of your medals !

  5. Sounds great! Should have been a wonderful experience.

    It’s all nice to learn,inquire and share the best practices. Keep it up and God Bless

    Visitors Medical Insurance

  6. I love u story
    U should rite a book about ur life in sonj
    I will miss u and the panthers


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