MARICOPA — When the Special Olympics team from the Maricopa Unified School District departed for their final day at the summer games, they were given a royal treatment.
The Maricopa police and fire departments met them in front of the high school early Saturday morning, giving them an up-close look at what they do before escorting the school bus out of town. It was fitting for a group of kids excited to be representing their city with those around Arizona.
The State Summer Special Olympics took place Thursday through Saturday at Kellis High School in Glendale. Athletes competed in the standing long jump on Thursday, the 4x100 meter relay on Friday and softball throw on Saturday.
The MUSD team consists of 32 kids ages 8-21. They attend Maricopa Elementary School, Maricopa Wells Middle School and Maricopa High School.
Pamela Herrera, who has been coaching Special Olympics for 12 years, said this team has been a pleasure to work with. They last competed in December when soccer was the main sport.
“They all do a great job participating and work really hard, showing up to all the practices,” Herrera said. “It’s not competitive like high school sports are. It’s more about having fun.”
During their party on Thursday before the first day of the competition, high school sophomore Jorie Pyant could be seen sitting with kids much younger than him, helping them out with whatever they needed. It’s part of the role he’s taken upon himself as one of the older members of the team, providing leadership for his teammates.
“I cheer them up when they feel down,” Pyant said. “I tell them I’m happy they’re on my team. I do the best that I can to help them.”
Pyant was most excited for long jump, which he has been improving on throughout the years. But mostly, he just appreciated getting to spend the weekend with this group.
“I love being a part of this team,” Pyant said. “I like to meet new friends and people, and to have some fun. We work together, and we put our effort to work.”