October 11, 2017

Photo provided
Mary Washam stands on the podium after receiving her gold medal in the 25-meter freestyle.

Photo provided Mary Washam stands on the podium after receiving her gold medal in the 25-meter freestyle.

The outlook was bleak for the trio of Monroe County Special Olympians who qualified for the State Swim Championships, which was held last weekend in Sebastian.

Without access to a pool during the final month of training and most volunteers spending their time cleaning up after Irma, the trio of Mary Washam, Kai Simcic-Swanton and Michael Neri were underdogs against the more than 400 athletes who had more practice time to prepare for the games. 

The Monroe County athletes still prevailed as they returned home with a pair of gold and a silver medal that were won during the games.

“We thought we were going to have to cancel our attendance due to Irma’s interruption of practices, lack of volunteers and funding, but our coaches stepped up to the plate, taking days off work, without pay and time away from their own homes that needed attention, to get these three young people to Sebastian for their events this weekend,” said Monroe County director of Special Olympics Ruth Holland. “The team worked hard to qualify and the coaches were not going to let them miss this opportunity.”

During the event, Washam, a Key West High senior, took top honors in the 25-meter freestyle, as did Simcic-Swanton, a Conch alumni, who won the 50-meter freestyle. Neri, a MARC client, took silver in the 50-meter breaststroke as well as a fourth place ribbon in the 50-meter freestyle.

“Thank you to coaches, Laurie Skinner, Susan and Roy Bouge and Mardee Rath-Emailo, who took the time to support this small, but mighty group of swimmers to Special Olympics Florida State Games,” said Holland. “Kai, Michael and Mary swam for all of us in the Florida Keys, showing that Irma cannot stop us from achieving our goals and dreams.”

jwcooke@keysnews.com