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District U46 recognizes students who competed at state Special Olympics

School District U46 honored some of their Olympians at a recent meeting.

District officials recognized sixth-grade student Tina Hondros and seventh grader Gwen Cerami who competed June 10-12 in the state Special Olympics in Bloomington.

“I’m just extremely proud,” swim coach Lindsey Reynolds said of the Olympians. “They worked really hard. I feel a lot of pride.”

The district presented each of the Olympians with a certificate of recognition.

As members of the U46 Blue Stars, Hondros and Cerami earned first place in the 25-meter and 50-meter freestyle swim competitions allowing them both to clinch the rights to two gold medals.

Six athletes represented the district as part of the Special Olympics.

“They put forth a lot of effort into each practice,” Reynolds said. “We saw them grow.”

The U46 Blue Stars first started training for competition in January, with swim sessions occurring once a week. The road to victory got underway in March with qualifying regional competitions being held in Naperville.

Hondros, 11, of Bartlett, said she was excited to compete in the state Special Olympics.

“I just wanted to get the gold,” she said.

Hondros has been swimming since age 3.

Tina’s mom, Liz Hondros said, she’s noted a progression in her daughter’s ability to swim over the years, and said she’s been in attendance for all of her practices and saw her compete in the Special Olympics in June.

“I was elated,” she said. “I was crying tears of joy. I was so happy that she was doing so well with swimming.”

Liz said Tina had worked on some of her form and said she’s not diving yet but that’s OK.

“One of my goals is to learn to dive,” Tina said.

In competing, athletes were categorized by age and ability. Both Olympians fell into brackets for those aged 8-15.

Gwen Cerami, 12, of Streamwood, said competing brings great meaning to her.

“It went really well,” she said. “I wanted to do this.”

Gwen’s mom, Heidi Cerami said, simply knowing her daughter competed in the swim competition was a positive.

“I’ve had her taking swimming lessons since age 6 or 7,” she said. “I just wanted her to do something she was interested in. The last two years she’s been doing great. Everything came together.”

Heidi noted that Gwen is diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, and said seeing what swimming brings out of her daughter, who tends to obsess like many people with that diagnosis, is nice to see.

“It’s good for them to have things to focus on,” she said.

Heidi said socializing is another benefit of allowing her daughter to compete, but the biggest thing is knowing Gwen can focus on her goal, follow through and see the payoff in the end.

“U46 has really given her that sense of confidence in that if you put your mind to something, you can do it,” she said.

Maureen Lue, coordinator for the U46 Special Olympics program, said both athletes overcame incredible odds on the road to victory.

“When you have children with disabilities, being in Special Olympics can be strange,” she said. “That really rattles anybody, but when you have a disability that can throw them for a loop.”

Lue emphasized that both students handled the pressure well and their performances show that.

“I think they did a great job,” she said. “They followed directions, touched the wall when they were supposed to, and swam as fast as they could.”


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