By Susan Monteleone
LOCH SHELDRAKE March 30, 2004 A very special event known as the March Madness Bench and Deadlift Open was held this past weekend at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse on the campus of Sullivan County Community College.
The event was sponsored by Special Olympics of New York and USA Powerlifting, in conjunction with the SCCC Athletic Department.
This years competition was even more special because it was dedicated to Peter Watson, who passed away in 2003. Watson was a Sullivan County BOCES special education teacher and an avid powerlifting coach for Special Olympics New York Area 32 (Sullivan County).
Letty Figueroa, who is the Area 32 coordinator and served as a coach for the weightlifting event, remembered well what the day was about.
The guys here today are doing a great job, Figueroa said. In 2003 Peter Watson, only age 43, passed away right here at school right outside the weight room from a heart attack. He was awesome and weightlifting was his life and he loved these kids. In the beginning we were not sure if we could maintain the program, but it has only thrived in Peters memory.
This is my life and these kids are my children, Figueroa continued. The kids are pushing to win today in Peters memory and I know that they will make him proud and I also know that he [Peter] is with us today and guiding these kids in the direction they need to go.
Bill Collins, Director of Outreach for Special Olympics New York thanked the host of the event.
Sullivan County Community College has opened its heart up to our athletes, Collins said. This year is even more special because it is the first year Special Olympics has teamed up with USA Powerlifting, in which our athletes will be powerlifting right next to famous athletes. It is a thrill of a lifetime for our athletes.
In todays event we are thankful to further have the New York City Fire Department Color Guard to open up the ceremonies for us, Collins added. I think what this event is about is our athletes feeling good about themselves and it is the community and the athletes that are coming together here today. There is no better way for our athletes to know that they can truly excel and be a part of something big as this event here today.
Jane Donohue was a coach for the Area 32 team that competed at the event.
We are gonna do great here and the kids are great and I am proud of all of them. We even have a few secret weapons we are going to put into effect, she said with a smile.
Dave Thomson, who is the dean of enrollment and student development at SCCC added, I praise the coaches and all the people that got these athletes here today. I am extremely proud of everyone involved. These kids are fulfilling their dreams and there is no better pride then that. I wish all of these fine athletes great success in their weightlifting career.