WESTCHESTER, N.Y. -- The Hudson Valley Region of New York Special Olympics Unified Softball Team won a bronze medal at the Special Olympics Unified Softball Tournament in Trenton, N.J.
Mathew Longo of Hawthorne, a teacher and coach in the Yonkers Public Schools, experienced his first Special Olympics Unified event as a partner.
"I got my first taste of what it's really like to be a Special Olympics athlete this weekend," Longo said. "I played in what is called a Unified Softball tournament, which means half the team is athletes and the other half partners (coaches). Our team finished in third place, which is great, but that's not what's important. The important thing is we made some great new friends and had a nice time."
The Hudson Valley squad, which is made of Westchester and Putnam county residents/athletes, played six games in three days under coaches Ellen Pikula from the New York Special Olympics office, and Joe and Nancy Bellini from North East Special Services.
"We lost to teams from Georgia, Maryland and Maine in pool play, but beat Maine 17-12 for the Bronze in the medal round," Longo said.
The event was held as a precursor for the 2014 U. S. National Games. Teams were from Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia as well as Canada, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
"By the last game, every muscle in my body ached," Longo said. "The weather was beautiful, and we got to see a Trenton Thunder (Yankees minor league team) baseball game.
The Westchester/Putnam Unified Softball team included Tim Angi, Mike Danko, Jimmy Kuang, Frank Ragusa, Billy Seide, Will Smith, Jhonatan Valencia and Bobby Wilson. Partners were Mat Longo, Jim Longo, Rhonda Logan, Linda Efraimsen, Dave Sedacca and Jose Nevarez.