Union County Special Olympics assistant coach Tina Bowen, left, instructs Braden Trice in the shot put while Joey Gross looks on during practice at La Grande High School Wednesday. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
The Union County Special Olympics track and field team is preparing for the Summer State Games starting Saturday in Newberg.
Union County will be joined by 1,500 athletes from around the state for the two-day event.
“I think we’ll do real well,” UC Special Olympics coach Doug Trice said. “They division (the athletes) by age, gender and the times we send in. So, our guys and gals will do real well.”
The Union County athletes are coming off a strong performance at the regional track meet in Milton-Freewater last month.
The team has been practicing three times a week at the La Grande High School track in preparation for the state games.
“(My training) is going pretty good,” athlete Jennie Coppin said during practice Wednesday.
Coppin won gold in the softball throw at the regional meet last month, and she is hoping to bring home some more medals this weekend.
“I think I’ll do pretty good. Just throw it way out there,” she said.
Nick Mendiguren won a gold medal in the standing long jump at regionals. He also won a bronze in the 400-meter relay. Mendiguren said he has been battling an injury during training lately, but he is hoping to overcome that to perform well at state.
“Training isn’t going too bad,” he said. “I would have liked to have gotten in more training than I did this year. I’ve been healing from shin splints so I’ve had to take it easy.”
Jimmy Cross brought home two bronze medals from the regional games, but this will be his first experience at the state games.
“I’m kind of nervous,” Cross said. “It’s probably going to be a bigger crowd.”
Cross said his favorite event is the 400-meter relay, in which he helped to a third-place finish at regionals.
“I like it because it’s a team effort and you get to support your team,” he said.
Braden Trice was a member of that third-place relay team. Trice has his eyes on an even better medal at the state games.
“I’ll probably win three golds,” Trice said with a shrug of the shoulders.
Trice said his favorite event is the 100-meter dash. And his reasoning was simple.
“I’m the quickest one,” he said.
He’s also looking forward to going to the state games with his fellow
“(State) is fun,” Trice said. “You get to hang out with friends.”
Stephanie Johnson will also be making the trip to state after winning gold in the pentathlon at regionals.
Johnson recently moved to Milton-Freewater to train but Coach Trice said she will represent Union County in Newberg.
Dani Thorne will try to back up her first-place finish at regionals in the 800-meter dash at state, while Joey Gross looks to build on his gold-medal winning performance in the shot put.
Justin Bowling won two medals at regionals, a gold in the softball throw and a bronze in the 100-meter race.
Fred Jordan won the 100-meter walk at regionals and will try to match that this weekend.
Alex Weissenfluh will compete in the state golf games at Chehalem Glenn Golf Course in Newberg on Saturday. He will compete in the individual skills competition.
Andy Altenburg and Sam Altenburg, as well as Ian Altenburg and Pat Vaughn, will participate in the nine-hole alternate shot unified partners contest.
This will be the last event of the season for Union County Special Olympics before some downtime to finish out the month.