The most difficult practice I have during the season is the one where we announce the team that will be representing Orange County at State Meet. What should be a happy event for those selected ends up being a somber event because there are so many deserving athletes that don’t get to go because of the State Special Olympics’ quota system. I have fought against this system for years, but the fact remains that this is unlikely to change. Clearly if an athlete wins a gold in area games a reasonable person would assume they would get the opportunity to go to State Meet to compete in their division. Unfortunately, when a program is successful as ours and there are 10 more gold medalists than slots available, deserving athletes get left behind. I personally find this unconscionable, but the higher ups at State don’t seem to have a problem with this.
I take great care in selecting our participants based on solely how they finished in area games. This is the criteria that the state wants us to use. There is no favoritism, cronyism or “if you didn’t go this year we will take you next year” promised slots in the selection nor has there ever been. It is not always the fastest on the team that gets to go, because finishes are based on the divisioning of the athletes by Special Olympics officials. This is sometimes not fair, but it is the system.
All athletes this year selected to go to State have at a minimum two gold medals at area games and most had three. Sadly there are some athletes left behind that have two gold medals, one individual and one relay. Because we can take only three relays (men’s medley, men’s free and women’s medley) those that won golds on the A relays received higher priority than swimmers on the B relays ( the B relays were in a slower division that also won gold). In other words, all finishes being the same between two swimmers for a relay spot the faster swimmer gets the spot. I don’t know anyway to make it fairer than this.
Whether you are going to State Meet or not I am extremely proud of all our athletes. Swimming is much more that going to State Meet and winning a medal. It is about friendships, healthy exercise, and being part of a community. Winning awards is nice, but participating is far more important. I don’t want anyone to give up on swimming just because they are not going to State Meet this year or any other year. Being involved is the most important part of our program. So just because you may not be going to state meet doesn’t mean I don’t expect you at the next two practices. You keep coming and I’ll keep coaching.
Many thanks everyone for a great 20 years and I look forward to the next 20.
Our State meet team is as follows:
John David Haywood