HACKETTSTOWN, NJ – The Sparta High School and Middle School Special Olympics team had a successful showing at the annual Zone 3 Track and Field events.  Three athletes have qualified to participate in the Summer Games as well.

“It was a truly amazing day for all involved,” Coach Jennifer Schock said.  “The pride, confidence, self worth and enjoyment our athletes experienced during this event was priceless. To say we cleaned house is an understatement.”

Jalen Cyrus took home the gold in the 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, Long Jump and was part of the gold medal relay team.

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Katie Carrigan earned a gold in the 200 meter dash, silver in the Turbo Javelin throw and Bronze in the 50 meter dash.  She was also a part of the gold medal relay team.

Rocco Cortese took the gold in the 400 meter dash, 1500 meter run, standing Long Jump and was part of the gold medal relay team.

"My second Special Olympics meet was amazing,” Cortese said. “It was amazing to see how many students and staff came to support us this year. It was amazing to win all four of my events: 400m dash, 4x100m relay, which we got redemption over SCARC after a second place loss last year, 1500m run and the standing long jump. At the end of the meet, Coach Schock told me that my fellow athletes Jalen, Katie and myself had qualified for states at TCNJ.”

“Saturday’s event was fun, can’t wait for states,” Cyrus said.

Many other team members earned medals as well.

  • Allen Ben-Nany got the gold in Turbo Javelin throw, silver in 200 meter dash and bronze in 100 meter dash.
  • Allison Yurchak earned gold in Turbo Javelin throw and silver in both 50 meter and 200 meter dashes.
  • Anthony Cortese took the gold in Turbo Javelin throw and bronze in the 50 meter dash.
  • Grady Gaines won gold in the 50 meter dash and bronze in both the Turbo Javelin Throw and the 200 meter dash.
  • Kevin Elzind got a silver in the 50 meter dash and standing long jump, the bronze in the 200 meter dash and was part of the gold medal relay team.
  • Raina Santora earned a gold medal in the 100 meter and 200 meter dashes and the Standing Long Jump.

"Under the direction and training of Coach Schock, the Athletes soared to success at Saturday’s SO games. The dedication and pride of every Athlete is inspirational and very beautiful to witness,” Raina’s mother Andrea Santora said. “It is simply evil minded that Betsy DeVos could desire to take this National program away.  The Sparta High School Special Olympics coaches and volunteers are enormously dedicated to seeing each and every Athlete overcome their particular imperfection and capture their personal victories.”

“Unfortunately Michaela was unable to compete this weekend due to a season ending foot injury,” Schock said.  “We miss you Michaela and are looking forward to seeing you on the track next season.”

The volunteer coaches are Schock, Monica Wall, Tina Johnson, Kathryn Nieves and Patricia Jackson.

The team had tremendous support from the high school students and staff.  Many attended the weekend event. According to interim principal Cecil "Bud"  Beavers about a third of the high school faculty bought the team shirts to support the athletes. Teachers throughout the district also purchased team shirts.

"What a great day,” volunteer teacher Frank Battaglia said. “This team looks out for each other.  They are a genuine, caring, hard working, and fun group of athletes.  Sparta is very proud of our Special Olympic Team.”  

Student volunteers:

  • Alexis Anderson,
  • Nick Audino,
  • Cassius Battaglia,
  • Jenna Beebe,
  • Jenna Blandina,
  • Hannah Conrad,
  • Natalie Earl,
  • Shannon Hollywood,
  • Valerie Huff,
  • Thomas Reina,
  • David Rubin,
  • Grace Russo,
  • Billy Stoddard,
  • Kathleen Whilesmith

Teacher volunteers:

  • Kristina Acevedo,
  • Frank Battaglia,
  • Alexa Griffen – Nurse
  • Susan McDonald

“These Athletes take my breath away,” Santora said. “The outpouring support from the community at this event was wondrous.”

The Special Olympic Summer Games will be held June 7 to 9 in Trenton.