NZ students compete in Special Olympics


North Zulch ISD middle schoolers Harli Mott, Drake Lummus, Avery O’Neal and Marissa Stewart represented the district last Wednesday at Navasota’s 11th Annual Special Olympics event at Rattler Football Stadium.

“It has gotten to be a pretty big deal for our kids,” said Coach Jim O’Neal, who helped the students prepare for the competition along with special education teacher Russel Creel. “They look forward to it and have been practicing for the events during P.E. class. They do a really good job with it.”

The competition was comprised of two major categories: running and throwing events. All of the competitors are awarded medals for their hard work, but the North Zulch students shined in a number of areas in Navasota.

Lummus took home two first place prizes for his efforts. Avery O’Neal earned a second place finish in both the running and throwing events while Mott earned second in throwing and third in running. Stewart earned second in a running event and third in throwing.

All of the North Zulch competitors participated in the softball or tennis ball throwing event. Distances in the running events varied from 30 meters to 100 meters. Most of the North Zulch students competed in the 50-meter dash. The district has now competed in Navasota’s Special Olympics in back-to-back years.

The competition came shortly after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Trump Administration expressed a desire to end the program’s funding to rely solely on donations moving forward. The Special Olympics received $17.6 million from the Education Department this year, roughly 10 percent of its overall revenue.

“We are going to try and be even more involved with this event in the future,” said O’Neal. “I always tell people that if they have not been to one of the competitions, they need to go. It is a complete and utter joy fest the entire time to see these kids get out there and compete. You see them race and then they are hugging each other at the finish line. They are having nothing but fun.”

Eight schools competed at the events at Rattler Stadium in total, including North Zulch, Navasota, Montgomery, Sealy and Magnolia.