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Murrow College of Communication at WSU

Pullman Hosts Special Olympics

PULLMAN — On February 2nd, hundreds of athletes throughout Eastern Washington travelled to Pullman to compete in the 2019 East Regional Special Olympics Basketball Tournament.

The event organized players in a variety of age groups into teams as they competed through their brackets in hopes to win gold and advance to the state tournament.

From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. athletes played on five courts, with an additional sixth court operating the skills challenge, an individual competition where athletes show off their fundamentals.

The event drew support from WSU students. They helped keep score, design signs, cheer, make lunches, and referee.

“It seemed like a great opportunity to help out for a great cause,” said David Jaquish, a volunteer referee.

Grant Opland, event coordinator, said he enjoys the sportsmanship that the athletes show. The stakes were high as players worked for a bid to the state championship but players helped each other up and congratulated opponents for making good plays.

While the event celebrated athletic competition, it also memorialized the recent death of a former athlete.

On January 26th, Andrew Vathis was killed by a car while crossing the street. At the opening ceremony of the event his team, The Spokane Wolfpack, stood center court as Grant Opland spoke on the qualities that made Vathis a great athlete and citizen.

“He was always encouraging players, congratulating them on making a basket,” said Opland, “he will truly be missed.”

Vathis had competed both basketball and track in special olympics tournaments. The team had the opportunity to attend his memorial service that morning in Spokane, but chose to play in the tournament to honor his legacy as an athlete.

Teams that earned gold advance to the state tournament. Wenatchee hosts the state tournament from March 1st-3rd.



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©2019 Washington State University Board of Regents – Edward R. Murrow College of Communication. 

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