Hood River Special Olympics swim team

The Hood River Special Olympics Team (left to right): Volunteer Henry Villafana, Dawson Beneventi, Aisayah Mariscal, Niko DeBruin,Sierra Bigelow, Shad Grimsley, Dylan Bigelow, Joe Cannon, Melody Nilson, Head Coach Sandra Andrews, and volunteer Mike Nilson. Not pictured are coaches Chris Donnermeyer and Abby Tomlinson.Contributed photo

The Hood River Special Olympics Swim Team participated in the Northwest Oregon Regional Competition Sunday at the Tualatin Hills Aquatic Center in Beaverton. It was the first competition Special Olympics Oregon has held in three years due to the pandemic and the athletes were excited and anxious to get back to some social interaction and competition against teams of developmentally disabled athletes from Clackamas, Clatsop, Multnomah, Wasco/Sherman, Washington and Yamhill counties and the High Desert region.

Among the standout performances were Joe Cannon and Melody Nilson, both winning gold medals in the 25-meter breaststroke and the 25-meter backstroke respectively. Melody was also touched out in the 25-meter freestyle to earn a silver and Dawson Beneventi earned a hard-fought silver medal in the 50-meter freestyle. Niko deBruin, competing in Special Olympics for the first time, earned bronze medals in the 25- and 50-meter freestyle. An amazing feat considering that he could not complete a single length of the pool when he first started practicing three months ago.