Memorable trip for Special Olympics hoopsters

of the HeraldMarch 12, 2014 

Two Puyallup Vikings basketball squads earned some hardware during the Special Olympics Washington Winter Games from Feb. 28 through March 2 in Wenatchee.

The Puyallup purple team won a gold medal in senior unified group 1, while the Puyallup white team secured a bronze in the senior unified group 2 division.

Jeffrie Depping also placed third in his respective division in a individual skills competition.

Puyallup Special Olympics assistant coach Chris Helle said the trip was something he will never forget for myriad reasons. Not only did the team do well, the journey to and from Wenatchee was just as exciting, he said.

“Both teams were so excited to get the gold and the bronze,” Helle said. “It was fun watching them on the court succeed and have fun.”

While the Vikings basked in the glory, an unavoidable pitfall was ahead of them on the way home: Snoqualmie Pass. Interstate 90 across the pass was closed on March 2 due to heavy snow and avalanche control.

Vikings coach Annie Carpenter said the team checked into a Best Western hotel in Cle Elum for two days until I-90 reopened.

“They treated us like family,” Carpenter said of the hotel staff members.

Helle agreed wholeheartedly.

“We had a chance to take our teams to the pool,” he said. “We had a movie night and had a big snowball fight, too. Everyone just had a great time.”

Carpenter, who retired from teaching last June but still coaches Special Olympics teams, said weekends like that mean everything to her.

“I’m retired, but I love this,” she said. “I have been coaching for 20 years, and I’m going to keep on going.”

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