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Volleyball competition comes to an end

July 23, 2010

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Swinging hard and jumping to new heights

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Photo by: Micah Rhodes, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Sam Huffman, a Maryland Special Olympics athlete, swings over the block during a volleyball match at Abbott Sports Complex.



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It’s not always about winning or losing

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Unified teams create strong bonds

July 22, 2010

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Members of the Texas Unified Volleyball Team are ready to hit the court on Thursday, July 22.

Story and Photo: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Terri Eck is one of the biggest volleyball fan in the stands at the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games.

Her husband, Bo, is the assistant coach. Her son, Adam, is the newest addition to the Texas Unified Volleyball Team. They’ve traveled from Allen, Texas to compete in the National Games.

To trace the many connections within the team is next to impossible.

Three of the partners are special education teachers.

There’s a father-son duo on the court.

Head coach, Sandra Boggs, is a former special education teacher.

Partner Tom Jaconet works with an athlete’s parent.

Not only is partner Lisa Grantham a special education teacher, she has taught all of the athletes in the classroom. She is also the head of delegation for Allen Special Olympics. Her son, Brantley, is also a partner.

The Unified Texas team is extraordinary. It is not just a group of athletes playing with a group of partners. These teammates mesh. They connect in a way on a court that makes you think they had been playing together since they were young.

This Unified team practices together every Wednesday throughout the year. And leading up to the national tournament, they practiced even more. They compete against other local teams in their hometown recreational league.

Adam Eck, the newest member of the team, is autistic.

In 2006 Special Olympics USA National Games, held in Ames, Iowa, Adam competed in the swimming competition. But volleyball is Adam’s latest adventure; he joined the team six months ago.

According to Terri Eck, unified play allows athletes to excel in many different levels in their lives. The experience strengthens their volleyball skills, confidence levels and personalities.

Terri was an X-ray technician, but she became inspired to become a special education teacher. She has also taught general education and now teaches English as a second language.

According to Eck the members of the Texas Unified Team have become like a family. They grow together. They change. To watch the athletes be successful on and off the court is nothing less than amazing.

Terri Eck says, “It’s not a disability. It’s a different ability.”

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Athlete Jared Williamson, #9, extends a high five to teammate Paul Landry, #10.

Photo: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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Brantley Grantham, #1, goes up for the hit while teammate Ryan Landry, #5, helps out.

Photo: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln



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Volleyball match brings tough competition

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Team Maryland and Team Texas compete in the unified volleyball competition at the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games.

Photo: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln



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Volleyball competition helps twins learn and grow

July 21, 2010

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Stephanie and Samantha Castleberry are never low on high-fives at the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games.

Photo and story by: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Special Olympians are special people, people like Samantha and Stephanie Castleberry.

The twins, 19, traveled from Fountain, S.C., to play volleyball at the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games. Both girls were born with Down syndrome.

Brian Maddux started coaching them in roller skating five years ago and has been their coach ever since. He describes the girls as close-knit, loving and friendly. Watching them play, you will know there is something extraordinary.

Playing off the Olympics’ motto, Maddux described the twins’ attitude: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me pop it over the net.”

The girls are part of a unified team, which includes Special Olympics athletes and other athletes. Maddux said that, during Tuesday’s game, one of the unified players had the opportunity to hit the ball over the net but instead set it up for Samantha. After Samantha smacked the ball over the net, he said, the smile on her face was priceless.

It is rare that a set of twins were born with Down syndrome, but in addition, both girls are fluent in sign language. Samantha and Stephanie’s parents are deaf. Maddox said the twins’ ability to understand the complex nature of sign language is nothing less than amazing.

On Tuesday, the girls’ grandmother, Dorothy Kriesel, and father, Dan Kriesel, surprised them by showing up to watch their game.

Participating in the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games allows the twins to interact in a different competitive setting.

Maddox said, “Most of us live in this little box of our experience, and to be exposed to something outside of that — I believe we call that growth.”

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Stephanie Castleberry dances with her coach, Brian Maddox, before the volleyball all star game.

Photo: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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Stephanie and Samantha stand with their coach and teacher Brian Maddox.

Photo: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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Samantha and Stephanie pictured with their grandmother, Dorothy Kriesel, and father, Dan Kriesel.

Photo: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln



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A twin surprise marks the USA National Games

July 20, 2010

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Parents fly to Lincoln, Neb. to support twins during 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games


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Volleyball All Stars hit the court

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Athletes on the White All Stars team celebrate their win.

Photo: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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Rory Fox, coach of the Red All Stars, claps for athlete Ryan Landry of Texas as he is introduced to the crowd

Photo: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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All Star Jackie Krei from Team North Dakota serves the ball.

Photo: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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Raishaun Holloway from Team Connecticut receives his certificate after winning the 2010 Special Olympics All Star volleyball game.

Photo: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln



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Volleyball competition begins

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Volleyball competition at the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games, taking place at Abbott Sports Complex, starts.


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Huskers and Olympian motivate volleyball athletes

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University of Nebraska-Lincoln volleyball players helped competitors at the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games. Olympics gold medalist Tom Hoff was also present.



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