By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE April 1, 2003 No matter how you lift it, 680 pounds of iron is a heck of a lot of weight.
And a 19-year-old Sullivan County BOCES student named Jermaine Eddie knows just how heavy that really is, as he took top honors Sunday at the First Annual Special Olympics New York Powerlifting Invitational held at Sullivan County Community College (SCCC). Eddie hoisted a combined total of 680 pounds in the bench press and deadlift competition.
After the special athletes were introduced, the competitors led the audience in reciting the Special Olympics Oath: Let me win. But, if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.
The Special Olympics New York powerlifting invitational was a first ever for the county, although Sullivan County BOCES special education teachers Peter Watson and Jane Donohue have developed a squad of lifters who compete at regional and national events.
The invitational attracted 12 local special athletes, mostly Sullivan County BOCES students, a few BOCES grads and a couple of folks from Sullivan County ARC.
They competed under the banner of Special Olympics New York Area 32 (Sullivan County). Five athletes traveled from Broome/Tioga counties (Area 14), and a lone competitor came from Orange County (Area 5).
Letty Figueroa of Cochecton serves as Area 32 coordinator.
About 30 years ago, she got involved with some friends who were helping out with recreation at Sullivan Diagnostic, and was hooked.
It builds their self-esteem and gives them confidence, Figueroa said. They socialize with other people and have a great time.
She said the athletes have a great attitude.
They dont care whether they win or lose, Figueroa said. Theyre always happy.
Bill Collins recently took over as field representative for the Hudson Valley Region of Special Olympics New York.
My job is to grow volunteer-powered events like this one, he said.
Special Olympics New York was organized by Dorothy Phillips in 1969.
Since that time, the organization has grown to become the largest program of sports training and competition for children and adults with mental retardation in the United States.
The year-round program was established with the goal of helping people with mental retardation develop social skills, strengthen families and unite communities in understanding that these individuals can prosper in an environment of equality, respect and acceptance.
According to Collins, nearly 40,000 children and adults with mental retardation participate in programs provided by Special Olympics New York. They are supported by a network of 30,000 dedicated volunteers and a cadre of more than 4,000 certified coaches.
Peter Watson is known as the snake man at Sullivan County BOCES, as he uses reptiles in his special ed. classroom to teach kids about life.
He started weightlifting in his early 20s, and for the last several years has been co-coaching the the Sullivan County Bulldogs Powerlifting Team along with fellow special ed. instructor Donohue.
Watson said the local powerlifting team competes annually at the Special Olympics sectionals in Albany and at the state games.
Derrick Finn graduated from BOCES about five years ago. He holds the Special Olympics state record in his weight class in the deadlift (505 pounds) and the world record in weight class at 515 pounds.
BOCES grad Chris Hinkley is a wheelchair athlete who can out bench press most people in the state, said Watson. On Saturday, Hinkley pressed 220 pounds of iron plates.
Its extremely rewarding watching these guys do their best, Watson commented. Theyre all champions.
Along the sidelines, Joan Rohrs of Smallwood watched her son Nelson, a 17-year-old BOCES student and member of the Bulldogs powerlifting team hoist a total of 505 pounds (180 bench press plus 325 dead lift) on the way to winning an overall gold medal in his weight class.
Im so proud of him today. she said. Its the first time Ive seen him do something like this . . . its wonderful to watch them compete.
Anthony Lescano, a BOCES high school student, picked up a couple of golds and a bronze.
I was almost speachless, said his mother Constance Lescano, a local grants writer. Its amazing to see that much weight being lifted.
SCCC Athletic Director Chris DePew said that as a kid he used to help out at Special Olympics winter games at the Neville Hotel in Ellenville.
Its great to have them compete here today, he said. Its important for us to reach out into the community.
Dave Thompson, the local community colleges dean of enrollment and student development, handed out the bronze medals; Elizabeth Kubenik, vice president of administative affairs, was in charge of the silver; while Fallsburg Police Department Sgt. Jack Degraw was honored to award the golds.
Jermaine Eddie, a 19-year-old student at Sullivan County BOCES, has been on the local Special Olympics powerlifting team for four years.
On Sunday, he set a personal best by hoisting a mindboggling total of 680 pounds, thus eclipsing his previous personal records of bench pressing 220 pounds and dead lifting 450 pounds.
Eddie pressed 225 pounds and lifted 455 pounds, topping his personal records in each category by a nickel.
At the awards ceremony, Eddie received three golds.
I like it, Eddie said of his dedication to powerlifting.
For information about Special Olympics New York, call Area 32 representative Letty Figueroa at 932-9818 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; Hudson Valley Region field representative Bill Collins at 518-388-0791; or Special Olympics New York at 800-836-6976 or e-mail www.spe cialolympicsnewyork.org
Following are the final results of the competition. The first number listed is the competitors best bench press weight, the second is their top deadlift weight.
Sullivan County (Special Olympics NY Area 32): Devin Bowers 110/245; Jermaine Eddie 225/455; Derrick Finn 265/no lift; Sean Gallagher 170/185; Jennifer Garguilo 75/190; John Gould 125/315; Chris Hinkley 220/no lift; Anthony Lescano 115/325; John Palmer 130/225; Anthony Radzieski 145/275; Nelson Rohrs 180/325; Billy Solanich 165/355.
Broome/Tioga Counties (Special Olympics NY Area 14): Laurie Clays 75/155; Jaque Godray 305/440; Tony Iovine no press/255; Kevin Laman 185/300; Kim Richards 110/285.
Orange County (Special Olympics NY Area 5): Eddie Diesel DeCamp 185/290.
Overall Gold Medal Winners (by weight class: total weight; bench press plus dead lift): Jermanie Eddie 680 pounds; Jaque Godray 745; Billy Solanich 520; Nelson Rohrs 505; Eddie Diesel DeCamp 475; Anthony Lescano 440; John Gould 440; Kim Richards 395; Jennifer Garguilo 265.