Always a harbinger of spring, Marymount University’s annual Special Olympics Basketball Tournament was held on Saturday, April 6. Sponsored by Marymount’s Campus Ministry Association (CMA), the tournament is a much-anticipated competition that gives Special Olympics athletes from northern Virginia the opportunity to show off their basketball skills at both the senior and junior division levels. Marymount students plan the event, cheer for their adopted teams, and share a day of camaraderie and fun with the Special Olympians.
At the Opening Ceremonies, Marymount President Matthew D. Shank noted that this was the 18th annual Special Olympics Basketball Tournament and that the university was looking forward to the next 18 tournaments. He said, “Marymount values this great partnership, not to mention the great basketball! Our volunteers come from all across the Marymount community and include many of our student athletes. I wish a blessing on all the athletes here today.”
Debbie Warren, MU athletic director, added, “Dr. Shank’s comments are especially appropriate since today, April 6, is also National Student Athlete Day. What better way to recognize our student-athletes, many of whom are here in support of this tournament – especially since Special Olympics is the national partner of NCAA Division III?”
As the games commenced, the friendly rivalry was palpable. Marissa McGrath ʼ13, the CMA student coordinator, noted, “You can really feel the excitement. Everyone is really pumped.” Jimmy Noone, also a senior, agreed, saying, “What I really appreciate is the chance to give back and still have a lot of fun! It’s awesome to be part of this!”
Bernie Woolfley, the Arlington coordinator of Special Olympics, also commented on the high spirits of the day and expressed his gratitude for the enthusiasm and commitment that the Marymount students exhibit year after year. He said, “Marymount consistently puts on a great tournament, and the Marymount students really get it. It’s in the DNA of Marymount to do this so well. For the Special Olympians, this tournament is big; it’s something they don’t get to do very often.”
Gayle Bailey, coach of the Langley Cavaliers, added, “There’s a really good vibe with lots of signs, the announcer identifying the players by name during the games, and all the cheering fans. It makes everyone feel special.”
But, as heartwarming as the competition was, the games were intense, with the athletes doing their best to excel. The championship games saw the Davis Destroyers besting Chantilly United in the Senior Division, and the Mighty Titans taking home the gold with Mason Nation finishing second in the Junior Division. The Langley Cavaliers emerged the victors over Arlington Red in the 3-on-3 game.
Awards were presented by Samyr Laine, an instructor in Marymount’s School of Business Administration and himself an Olympian – having competed for Haiti in the triple jump at the 2012 Summer Games. Laine complimented the teams on their outstanding efforts and the intensity of play. He emphasized, “But the best thing is that we all had fun. That’s what counts.”
As everyone in the gym joined the circle of friendship for the Closing Ceremony, Marymount chaplain Father David Sharland, Y.A., captured the uplifting spirit of the day that united the teams, the Marymount community, and the loving families and friends. He stated simply, “It’s been a day of joy, community, and wonder.”
1. Chantilly United team cheers at Opening Ceremony. - L to R: Jeremy Duston, Mike Abraham, Jason Duston, Adrian Sullivan
2. Marymount junior Katelyn Stuver talks basketball with Alexis Umana, a member of Arlington White
3. Kyle Leddy, Davis Destroyers,shoots while Jason Duston, Chantilly United, gets ready for rebound.
Photos by Matt Dunham and Bob Brown.