By Chris Richie
Yesterday two busses filled with a delegation of coaches, staff and 94 Special Olympics athletes made its way from Marlborough, Massachusetts to The College of New Jersey in Ewing Township. While the 2014 USA Games games are taking place in and around Princeton, NJ, the campus of TCNJ, with or without ivy, has its own bucolic charms.
The bus rides went well. We made sure that big basketball center Devon Gaskin had his own two seats to spread out all 6’10” of himself. (He says he has to dangle his feet off the single dorm room bed at night, but reassures me his dad is hooking him up with a California king when he returns.) Golfer Tyler Lagasse rocked out on his Bose headphones to Bruce Springsteen the entire ride down — every so often keeping a very steady beat of air drums and mouthing the lyrics of The Boss. After all, we were headed to Jersey. There was time for a brief rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike, where our delegation completely overwhelmed the Dunkin Donuts therein. It was like a cranberry tsunami. Not as much love for Starbucks, but I did see our Youth Activation Council delegate Kara DiGreggorio in line for a latte. What can I say, the people of Massachusetts have spoken.
Special Olympics staffers Matt Ruxton and Andrew Maclay were waiting for the delegation when we all arrived. They’ve been working hard keeping up with schedules and briefing coaches. Anyone who knows Matt, knows he crosses his t’s and dots his i’s like nobody’s business, and Andrew has the customer service on lock. The volunteers down here greeted everyone with fanfare, holding signs, cheering and giving hi-fives as we exited the buses.
A majority of the delegations are being housed in the two large dorm towers of Travers and Wolfe Halls. Special Olympics New Jersey is running the show this week, so it makes sense they get a little bit swankier accommodations in neighboring townhouses, which from the looks of them are used to house upperclassmen or graduate students. Just like us, SONJ just had their state Summer Games last weekend. Theirs was actually on the very same campus of TCNJ.
If they gave medals out for getting down, SONJ might sweep the field. Last evening I took a walk around campus to get my bearings only to hear music echoing off the buildings of a side street. As I turned onto the small lane with the townhouses a block party atmosphere unfolded. At that particular moment The Spice Girls were blasting from two PA speakers and everywhere you looked SONJ athletes and volunteers were dancing in the street to the music — reassurance that New Jersey knows how to party and the rest of the states are in for the time of their lives.
Our delegation is decked out in “cranberry” uniforms, one of Massachusetts’ official state colors for those wondering. Cranberries also happen to be the official state berry and cranberry juice is the official state juice (I wonder if any of our friends at Ocean Spray had something to do with this.) Suffice to say that the delegation really stands out. Kentucky is wearing a darker maroon, but rest assured that our team is easily recognizable in a crowd. In my opinion our athletes uniform colors are really going to compliment the gold, silver and bronze that will hopefully adorn many of their necks by week’s end.