By ERIC PLUMMER
PRIEST RIVER — It was quite an adventure last week for local athlete Cody Schryver, who represented the Priest River Panthers and Idaho at the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.
Schryver, 27, rose to the occasion on the biggest of stages, winning gold medals in the 50 meters (9.19) and standing long jump (1.37 meters), and a silver in the softball throw (24.71 meters).
Schryver learned from past experiences at the USA Games in Oklahoma in 2010, when he fell in a prelim in one race and was DQ’d for leaving his lane in another. This time he’s bringing three shiny new medals back to Priest River, rallying after neck pain and migraines made for a tough start to the Games.
“I was happy that I felt better on Tuesday because nobody was going to beat me in the 50,” said Schryver, who won the long jump only after another athlete was DQ’d. “I really felt bad for my teammate in the standing long jump because I know how it feels to DQ.”
The fun-packed week started with the Opening Ceremonies at Husky Stadium, which were televised on ESPN. Michelle Schultz, who attended the games with husband Mark Schultz, called them unbelievable.
“Once they (athletes) were all there the floor of the stadium was alive with color and excitement,” described Michelle. “It was fantastic to witness this event in person.”
Michelle and Mark were watching the tape-delayed coverage on ESPN later in the week from a hotel and saw Schryver in the background doing the long jump. He almost didn’t mark in that event, after falling back on his first couple jumps, before hitting the winning mark on his final attempt.
The 50 meters were even more nerve-wracking, at least for Michelle and Mark watching from the stands. They needn’t have been, as Cody blazed down the track en route to gold.
“We were nervous as they lined up for the 50 meters. I would venture to say even more than he was. He got a great start, pulled out in front and never looked back,” described Michelle. “Mark said that was the most focused that he had ever seen Cody. He was determined to take the gold medal and he did.”
When the athletes were not competing or watching teammates compete, they took in the many activities at Olympic Town, including playing games, going through the Healthy Athlete’s program, meeting professional wrestlers and ex-NFL players, and bonding with each other.
All of the athletes and coaches also went to see the Mariners play the Angels on Thursday night, and there was a Family Fourth of July celebration at Husky Stadium with a DJ, music, videos, games and lots of laughter.
Suffice it to say, Schryver had an experience he’ll never forget.
“It was really cool getting to meet WWE wrestlers and get an autograph from Mark Henry,” recalled Schryver, a 2008 Priest River graduate who has been competing in Special Olympics for 20 years. “I also got a lot of stuff, like water bottles, clothes, a new gym bag, sunglasses, a portable charger for my phone, and lots of other stuff.”
Closing ceremonies were held at Lake Union Park, with an orchestra and live band providing entertainment. A traditional activity that all athletes participate in is the trading of pins.
“Each state has their own pin that they trade with other athletes from other states. It’s a fun way for athletes to meet new people, make new friends, and have a memento of their meeting,” claimed Michelle. “Sometimes it seems as if the pin trading is a competition all in itself. Who will collect the most pins?”
The next Special Olympic USA Games will be held in 2022 in Orlando, Florida. The Priest River Panthers we will be starting their softball season soon, followed by bowling and then winter competition. They will also be taking part in the Timber Days Parade, and will have a booth in the park where they will be selling raffle tickets for a 2018 Toyota Camry (tickets are $10 each and the Panthers keeps $7.50 of each ticket).
The Panthers wish to thank the community for their support in the team’s 20th season, saying they’re truly blessed and humbled to be a part of such a giving and supportive community.