On Tuesday, February 24, 2015, more than 125 student athletes from 15 teams from schools in Niagara, Hamilton and Halton stormed into Player’s Paradise in Stoney Creek to take part in Special Olympics Ontario’s regional qualifier. Proudly representing the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board were Cathedral High School and Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School.
The event was successful in so ways, said Marcia Matthews, an E.A. at Cardinal Newman. First and foremost, the sun-dappled indoor artificial turf facility was just short of paradise for the students and staff members who had come in from the frigid outdoors.
“We were given a little taste of springtime, even if only for a few hours,” said an appreciative Matthews.
Under the organization and leadership of Special Olympics Ontario, the soccer event got off to a roaring start. The Cathedral contingent was loud and proud as they cheered on their athletes in traditional Gael blue jerseys. The Cathedral squad played exceptionally well in games against Gonzaga, Ancaster and Beamsville, earning commendations for their athletic skill as well as their fantastic sportsmanship throughout the day.
Cardinal Newman, which has developed a strong program under the watchful eye of coaches Julia Fortino, Gerry Moretuzzo and Jeff Zwolak, entered two teams in the competition. The Cardinals faced Governor Simcoe, Beamsville, E.L. Crossley and Eden High School, compiling an impressive record of wins.
Said Moretuzzo, who is also a coach and program director for Newman’s soccer program which will soon to be inducted into Hamilton’s Soccer Hall of Fame: “While I enjoy coaching the varsity program each spring, I find coaching our Special Olympics program equally rewarding. Seeing the smile on these athletes faces makes these events a slam dunk for me.”
The sentiment is shared by Coach Zwolak. “These athletes are so proud to pull on that school jersey and chant their school name,” he noted. “Often times, these students do not have the same opportunities to represent their school and the Special Olympics program gives them that opportunity.”
At Cardinal Newman, the Special Olympians receive recognition with the other student athletes at the end of the year athletic banquet, thanks to the support of the administration and co-instructional department.
“Everyone is onboard at Newman: staff and students. It is truly a great thing,” said Fortino.
Special Olympics Ontario’s high school sports division promotes sport training and competition opportunities for high school student-athletes in a welcoming and fun sport environment.
One team from the regional qualifier will advance to the Ontario Championships in Oshawa in May. The team will be declared at a future date.