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South Jordan Journal

South Jordan students test skills during school district’s Sports Day

Jun 28, 2018 02:44PM ● By Julie Slama

South Jordan Elementary sixth-grader Anyinda Snow gives it his all with a softball throw at Jordan School District’s Sports Day. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | julie@mycityjournals.com

Elk Meadows sixth-grader Ramses Morales was looking forward to competing in his third Sports Day. 

“Last year, I got three third-place ribbons,” he said. 

His classmate, sixth-grader Kolton Bellon, said he liked the throw best, as he got a first-place ribbon for his attempt last year. 

“It’s fun being on the podium at the end,” he said. “But I’m tired at the end. Still, I feel good when I see the ribbons hung up in my room.” 

Jordan School District’s Sports Day is an opportunity for students with disabilities to compete against their peers at the same level in their school and other schools across the district. The event is held at Herriman High, where these student-athletes may compete in “cross country” or a 1-mile run around a field, 50-meter dash, throwing softballs or long jump; however, this year, rain and lightning mid-morning moved a few competitions indoors and cancelled others. 

The day began with several cross country heats, including the first one, which was won by South Jordan Elementary sixth-grade teammates and best friends Julian Gomez and Anyinda Snow. 

“We talked about running, and if someone comes up on us, we needed to run faster and keep going,” Julian said. 

Anyinda said the goal was to be there for one another.

“We decided to stick together and run it together,” he said. “I’m happiest when I do my best and hear people cheering.” 

Their principal, Ken Westwood, cheered them along the race and joked with them at the finish line. 

“I didn’t know if you’re allowed to smoke like that in school; you ran so fast, we needed an extinguisher,” he told them. 

Anyinda and his brother were adopted from a poor orphanage in Ghana, his parents said. 

“It was cinder block, and they slept on a foam pad on the dirt and had brown water to drink and went to school all in the same building,” his mother, Amy said. 

When they adopted the boys, they didn’t realize they had disabilities but knew they would be teaching them English. 

“We knew Anyinda was fast too, so he participated in the Riverton track program,” she said. “But when he got passed once, he sat down on the track and said, ‘just carry me.’ He learned then that he had to keep going if he wanted to get faster. In fact, back then, he’d do about anything for a hamburger, so we taught him to keep running if he wanted a hamburger.”

Julian’s mother, Angela Quintanar, said her son was nervous about coming to a new school in a new state this year since he has some reading disabilities. 

“He’s just been so happy being in this class, and having a chance to participate in Sports Day with his friends means so much,” she said. 

Classmate Bella Brown, who has autism and a mood disorder, won her heat a few moments later and exploded into smiles when her parents congratulated her. 

“We’ve run together a few times,” said her dad, John, who has completed the Wasatch 100 twice.  

Bella said that besides running, she likes riding horses, writing books about “unicorns, girls and trolls” and having a “secret drawer” where she puts her Sports Day mementos after her teacher, Kelli Sundell, displays all her students’ ribbons on a school bulletin board. 

“These kids are having the opportunity to experience glory, much like those in the Paralympics and Special Olympics get to race against their peers,” Sundell said. “They’re trying to do their best, but it’s for fun. If they don’t win, they’re OK with it.” 

Elk Meadows support unit teacher Casey Gressman agrees. 

“It’s fun for kids and gives them a chance to be successful,” he said. “We talk a lot about sportsmanship and accepting a loss.” 

At Golden Fields, teacher Jessica Sadler said that sportsmanship, physical fitness and inclusion are encouraged. 

“This helps to boost the kids’ confidence and allows them to see what they can do,” she said. “They’re getting a lot of cheering on.” 

At many schools, fellow students cheer these student-athletes as music is played before they board the bus. 

“Our students gave them high-fives as they walked through the halls to ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and ‘We are the Champions.’ It brings our students together to show their support of one another,” Sadler said. 

Elk Meadows Principal Aaron Ichimura said he is proud of all the students who compete. 

“It’s fun to see the students outside of their normal school day and see them accomplish something,” he said. “It’s impressive to see how well they’re able to behave and willing to do their best.” 

Even with the turn of events due to inclement weather, students accepted the indoor competition, and many of them enjoyed having a picnic with friends on the gymnasium floor. 

Monte Vista fourth-grader Connor Marlow had just finished his competition for the day, which included first place in the long jump. 

“It’s really fun to see him excited and be successful,” his mother, Katy, said. “It’s a good way for him to meet new people and compete against others, and it’s more special to him since it’s his brother’s school.” 

That’s what Sports Day is all about, South Jordan’s Westwood said. 

“It’s about students walking, jumping and running on Cloud 9,” he said. “They just eat it up and glow all day.”