Monday, January 15, 2018
News Roundup

Paddleboarding becomes newest challenge for Pasco Special Olympians

NEW PORT RICHEY

It was midmorning at the floating docks by Sims Park, and Mark Miller, in bright-colored swim trunks and with a life vest bearing his name, sat on a paddleboard, ready to launch.

But first came a few words of encouragement from his dad, along with some guidance on what was about to happen.

"Okay, we're going to push you off now," Robert Miller told his son as he knelt on the dock beside him. "Then, you've got to stand up.

"You can do it."

Mark Miller, 30, floated, gingerly making his way to his feet and nearly steadying himself, before falling into the tannin-colored water of the Pithlachascotee River.

As is his manner, Miller shook it off and pulled himself back onto the paddleboard while onlookers sitting on the seawall cheered him on. Once back on board, he got on with navigating an 800-yard, buoyed course for the Pasco County Special Olympics standup paddle competition.

Miller, who has been blind since birth and has cerebral palsy, would fall once more while completing his trek as he followed the oral directions of volunteer Casey Smith in a kayak nearby.

Even so, he logged his best time yet — 23 minutes, 25 seconds.

"I feel fabulous," Miller said, wrapped in a towel afterward. "Being blind, it's not easy. It was a little nerve-racking at first. I fell twice. I got back up both times. There's nothing wrong with that."

"He's pretty amazing to watch; his turns were perfect," said Smith, one of a passel of volunteers who show up each Tuesday for team practice sessions, typically held at Robert K. Rees Memorial Park in New Port Richey.

"Mark is one of our strongest athletes in this sport; he really listens well," said coach Phyllis Crain, a physical education teacher at John Long Middle School who serves as county co-director for Special Olympics along with Val Lundin.

Presently, 1,523 Special Olympics athletes in Pasco compete in 17 sports at events throughout the year, Lundin said.

Miller was one of four Pasco County athletes to compete in standup paddleboard on June 27. He, along with his sister, Katelynn Miller, 23; Danielle Parise, 27; and George Smith, 43, will move on to the Area 6 games, which will take place Saturday at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park in Winter Haven. Athletes who place in that competition will qualify for the state standup paddleboard championship Aug. 26 at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota.

Standup paddleboard is a fairly new event in Special Olympics. While this is the second year for state competition, it is the first year Olympians have competed on the county level in Pasco, Crain said.

"The sport is totally different from anything we've done before," she said. "It's perfect for Florida — except when the weather gets in the way — and the athletes really enjoy it."

Crain has a personal connection to Special Olympics. In her younger years, she volunteered as a partner athlete. She was inspired by her late, older brother, Cal, who had Down syndrome, and for a time served as manager for the Gulf High School soccer team.

Years later, she encourages athletes to meet their challenges, following the Special Olympian oath: "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

It's a thought not lost on athletes like Mark Miller, who competes in multiple sports despite, or his sister, Katelynn, who had to overcome her own fear of the river's darkened hue.

"I couldn't see what was under the water, so that scared me at first," she said. "You just have to pace yourself and keep your head up. It's not all about the time or the winning. It's about having fun and getting it done."

Contact Michele Miller at [email protected] Follow @MicheleMiller52

     
 
Comments
Gary Trent, Duke rally past Miami with 18-0 run

Gary Trent, Duke rally past Miami with 18-0 run

CORAL GABLES — Gary Trent scored a season-high 30 and No. 5 Duke needed less than three minutes to erase a 13-point second-half deficit, scoring 18 consecutive points to overtake No. 25 Miami 83-75 on Monday night. The Blue Devils scored 15 in six po...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Mother of two, 42, identified as casualty after Port Richey boat fire

Mother of two, 42, identified as casualty after Port Richey boat fire

PORT RICHEY — As the boat disappeared in smoke and flames Sunday, as people leapt into the cold waters below, the neighborhood rallied. Residents helped the survivors ashore, gave them blankets and opened their homes to keep them warm.The neighbors o...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Mon., Jan. 15, midday:40 098 2397e_SRit98281Mon., Jan. 15, evening:14 345 3173e_SRit61471Fantasy 5Mon., Jan. 15...
Updated: 4 hours ago
On King’s birthday, Tampa Bay parties, marches, reflects

On King’s birthday, Tampa Bay parties, marches, reflects

ST. PETERSBURGTeenagers dunked on 8-foot basketball hoops, parents feasted on hot dogs and snow cones and gospel music blared from a wall of speakers in Tropicana Field’s parking lots.While thousands buzzed around them on Monday, Destiny and Dameka R...
Updated: 4 hours ago

ConnecticutArmy vet sues VA over scalpel left in body after surgeryAn Army veteran who says someone left a scalpel inside him after surgery is suing a Connecticut veterans affairs hospital. Bridgeport resident Glenford Turner says the scalpel was onl...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Shrine Game journal: Homecoming for Utah OL Salesi Uhatafe; Quinton Flowers works on snaps

ST. PETERSBURG — Salesi Uhatafe is back in his hometown, and though he moved to Texas when he was still a baby, it’s very much a homecoming as the former Utah offensive lineman plays in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field."I’ll probab...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Iowa State’s two-way star Joel Lanning practicing at linebacker for East-West Shrine Game

Iowa State’s two-way star Joel Lanning practicing at linebacker for East-West Shrine Game

ST. PETERSBURG — Joel Lanning has the unique distinction of being listed as an "LB/QB" on the West roster for Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field.And while the former Iowa State star spent the entire practice at middle linebacker Mond...
Updated: 4 hours ago
A time of celebration

A time of celebration

GABRIELLA ANGOTTI-JONES | TimesBetty Taylor, who was marching with the organization Books on the Move, hands out beads along the MLK Dream Big Parade route in downtown St. Petersburg on Monday. Spectators were treated to floats, walking units and...
Updated: 5 hours ago

50 senators endorse net neutrality return

WASHINGTON — Fifty U.S. senators have endorsed a legislative measure to override the Federal Communications Commission’s recent decision to deregulate the broadband industry, top Democrats said Monday.The tally leaves supporters just one vote shy of ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Ernest Hooper: MLK holiday is a reminder that action, not just words, is required

Ernest Hooper: MLK holiday is a reminder that action, not just words, is required

Minutes before the Rev. Janae Pitts-Murdock delivered her moving keynote speech at the Tampa Organization of Black Affairs’ annual Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Breakfast, I checked my emails.Mistake.Even in the 7 a.m. hour, anger emerging from m...
Updated: 5 hours ago