The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

May 4, 2014

Smiles, cheers at Minnesota Special Olympics qualifier

Athletes participate in summer sports activities

Cheers of support from family and volunteers echoed through Gustavus Adolphus College’s Lund Center on Sunday during the regional qualifiers from the Minnesota Special Olympics.

The Special Olympics Minnesota’s Area 9 Athletics competition featured 210 athletes participating in summer sports activities, which focused on track and field sports like shot put and relay competitions.

Regional event coordinator Mike Vawracz said each event sends around 25 percent of its athletes to the state competition.

The event was organized and staffed by Special Olympics volunteers. Gustavus donated the use of its facilities for the event.

One notable competitor on Sunday was Michael Hutchens, 28, of Mankato. He was born several months premature, which resulted in him losing the use of his eyes.

Hutchens is a ferocious competitor who has participated in Special Olympics events since he was 8 years old.

At the Gustavus event, he participated in the shot put, the 100 meter dash and the 200 meter dash.

In his free time, Hutchens enjoys in a wide variety of competitive sports, including bowling, swimming and skiing at Mount Kato. He even occasionally drives a motorcycle.

”I’m just normally an active person. I really like getting into things,” Hutchens said. “It’s like my mom says, ‘If you don’t try, you will never know.’ (That motto) is what got me into things like skiing.”

The state Special Olympics summer competition will be held from June 26 to June 28. The U.S. Special Olympics will be held from July 14 to July 21.

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