PRINCETON, NJ – Sparta Special Olympics athletes competed at Princeton University’s Charles River Association Sculling – Princeton or CRASH P rowing competition earlier this month.  Before competing in Princeton the team had to battle against the snow. 

The forecast on the eve of their competition called for snow and causing the district to cancel the bus scheduled to transport the team.  Coaches and parents would not let a few flakes stand in the way of the students who had trained for months for the opportunity to compete in CRASH P and drove down to Princeton.

Katie Carrigan and Anthony Cortese both rowed in the 500 Meter competition in the morning.  The cheering crowd, Coach Jennifer Schock and Sparta High School senior and volunteer Billy Stoddard were joined by Princeton University rowers to support the two throughout their race.

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“The environment in the Shea Rowing Center was inspirational,” Schock said. “When Anthony became winded and wanted to slow down, it was moving to see many of the Princeton athletes as well as our group of parents gather around Anthony’s rower to cheer him through  every last stroke.”

Sparta was represented by Rocco Cortese and Jalen Cyrus in the 1000 Meter row.  Both athletes set new personal records. 

“It was easy to see this event was definitely worth the trip,” Schock said.

“It was an exciting day for our family to support our two boys and their teammates,” Michelle Cortese said. “Their hard work and dedication was truly inspiring.  In fact our youngest son now wants to volunteer to help with the Special Olympics when he gets to the high school next year.  We look forward to seeing more from the team in the future.”

The day culminated with a combined relay rowing event with four rowers; two Special Olympics athletes and two volunteer athletes.  Cortese and Cyrus were joined by Stoddard and Sparta Middle School student athlete Nicky Audino.

The rowers were each given one minute to row as many meters as they could.  Sparta put together 1,105 meters, good enough for second place overall and only 60 meters short of first place.

Nicky Audino, Sparta middle school, sixth grade Special Olympics volunteer said, “No matter your ability level, you can do anything if you set your mind to it. All of the athletes did amazing.”

“Overall, the event was a huge success,” Schock said. This was the first time that the Sparta athletes were involved in the  Crash P rowing competition at Princeton University. 

Sparta’s new rowing program is Stoddard’s vision.  He is a member of the Mountain Lakes Rowing Club.

According to Schock, Stoddard took his idea to Dan Trappe, who is the adaptive physical education teach at Sparta High School. Sparta High School received a grant from the Sparta Education Foundation to purchase Concept 2 rowing Ergs to incorporate into the physical education program.

“Our hearts are full,” parent Karen Carrigan said. “Billy has opened up a world of pride and accomplishment for Katie and her friends in the Crash P Rowing Event. We thank Billy for having such a big heart and being so brave to make a way for this to happen.”

“Today was a demonstration of community,” Schock said. “I am very proud of all of my athletes and their resilience.”