Two Hays athletes are in Seattle this week to compete against some of the nation’s best in the Special Olympics USA Games.
Kacey Dannels, 24, and Joseph Reed, 19, along with their coach for the Arc of the Central Plains Buffaloes, Noalee Augustine, were selected for the Kansas team. The team consists of 42 athletes and six coaches.
The opening ceremonies will be broadcast live at 2:30 p.m. Central Time Sunday on ABC, with coverage each evening through Friday on ESPN.
Both athletes said they were excited for the games and look forward to representing Hays and Kansas.
“It’s an honor to be able to support Hays,” Dannels said.
“In the western region, we don’t get chosen that often, so were were really surprised,” she said.
Dannels has participated in Special Olympics through the Arc for five years. She also plays basketball, tennis, bowling, volleyball and softball. She works at McDonald’s and volunteers with the Arc Thrift Shop.
“I was pretty excited that we would have two going,” Augustine said.
Augustine has been a coach with the Arc for 26 years and also coaches basketball, softball, volleyball and soccer.
Both athletes are members of the Arc’s 5K club, which trains three times a week, Augustine said, but have been doing some additional training for the games.
“She’s done a lot on her own with having a personal trainer,” Augustine said of Dannels.
Reed and Augustine meet in the mornings for a run.
“Most of the time we do 3 miles or 5 miles. This month I started doing 6 miles every Saturday and it helps me a lot,” Reed said.
Reed will compete in the 10K, 5K and 3K runs and 1,600-meter relay. He’s been with the Buffaloes for two years and also competes in basketball, bowling, volleyball, softball and soccer. He also volunteers at the Arc Thrift Shop, mows lawns and cleans his church.
Dannels will compete in the 400-meter relay, shot put and mini javelin.
She said the mini javelin is her favorite event.
“It’s something new that we didn’t get to experience last year,” she said.
Dannels said she is a little nervous about the competition.
“I think we’ll have a little bit tougher competition because it’s national level,” she said.