By Kyle LoJacono
Land O’ Lakes will send both of its Special Olympics soccer teams to the state games for the third straight year.
That was the first goal for LOL Blue and LOL Gold players. Next up is claiming a second championship in as many years.
“It’s exhilarating,” said midfielder Tara Chamblin, who has been on teams that reached states the last two years. “Your heart is pumping, and you don’t know what to do. It’s like you’re going to Hollywood.”
Chamblin said she was worried when she heard they were going back to states.
“I told my dad that I was nervous, but he said if we do what we need to do we can win,” Chamblin said. She added, “I think we got it. We have the best players on our team.”
Along with Chamblin playing midfield, the squads are helped by quick defenders like Joseph Tramel and Ilsa Hernandez, as well as Kenny Rolph in goal.
“It’s about having fun and trying to do your best,” said Hernandez, who has competed for five years. “It’s fun getting to work together and get better.”
The squads’ offenses are helped by Yvonne Collinsworth and Andrew Ahearn.
“The best part is getting a goal,” Ahearn said. He added, “I’m a scoring machine.”
The games are at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando. Blue won states for the level three teams last year, while Gold finished as level four runner-up.
“Joseph (Tramel) is on the Blue team, and he and the others who went last year have talked about wanting to go back,” said Land O’ Lakes coach Vicky King. “They had a good time and there’s a lot of fun things to do. It’s always their goal to get to states to play, and go to Disney.”
All of the Gators players are current or former Land O’ Lakes students. Both squads are unified, which means they have two traditional athletes playing with three Special Olympics players at all times.
King said the school has a very active Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) club, which has about 140 members.
“Those are most of our unified players,” King said. “We have some who play basketball, soccer and other sports. It’s a great experience for them too. They’re great role models for the athletes.”
King has coached Special Olympics since 1986. Chamblin said King is a big reason the teams are returning to states.
“She teaches us everything,” Chamblin said. “She’s been working with us for years. It’s great that she’s working with it.”
States are May 18 to 20. Land O’ Lakes is the only Pasco program sending two teams to the event.
Amanda Kelly says
i am very proud of you Tara Chamblin love ur bestfriend Amanda