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Special Olympics Track Team Primed for Buffalo

MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Michelle Gallotti, a White Plains resident and Special Olympics athlete, is entered in the upcoming New York State Summer Games as a pentathlete in the track and field events.

She is preparing with her teammates each Thursday for the games which begin Friday at the University of Buffalo.

"This event is hard because you have to be fast and strong and do five different things," said Gallotti, a slim 24-year-old who also plays volleyball. "I think I am better in the running. There's a 100 and 400 (dash) and I'm trying to be as fast as I can."

Gallotti stretched, ran laps and practiced her long jump, javelin and shot put skills at Hommocks Middle School in Mamaroneck along with seven other athletes from the Sound Shore contingent that will join 143 other local Special Olympians from the Westchester-Putnam (Hudson Valley) team in Buffalo this weekend. The Hudson Valley team includes athletes from the Sound Shore, Greenburgh and Northeastern groups (northern Westchester area).

The Sound Shore contingent is coordinated by longtime Special Olympics coach and Sound Shore Stars Training Program Director Suzanne Elson, who has mentored many of the Hudson Valley team members during her 30 years on the job. Sue McCrory, Bea Victory and Don Colantonio, who coach the track and field athletes, are part of the Sound Shore staff that includes Sue Moyer and Cathy Foley (swimming) and Elson and former Mamaroneck High School volleyball player Aly Gaiser (volleyball).

"Michelle is very good with interviews," Elson said. "She has good skills in the track and field events and the whole team is working hard. The athletes really enjoy traveling to the Summer Games. Our coaches do a great job in helping train the athletes and the trip itself."

For Gallotti, who joins Jillian Staar, Michael Johnson, Justin Pesso, Jhon Valencia, Sterling Oliver, Zach Moll and Yuria Koike-Ozawa on the track and field team, the games are a mix of fun and competition.

"Oh wow," Gallotti said. "Going to Buffalo is going to be fun -- with all the other people there from all over. I am not nervous though. I am going to have a good time. We have a good team and good coaches. John (Valencia) is very good (at pentathlon) and I hope I'm going to be good too."

Valencia, a 27-year-old star for both the track and field and volleyball teams and a Mamaroneck resident, has been a Sound Shore athlete for more than a decade. Valencia will not compete in track but leads the volleyball to Buffalo.

"We always want to do our best," Valencia said. "I try to keep in good shape. I try to help the others too. We're going to Buffalo to do our best."

For information about the New York State Westchester-based Special Olympics programs, log on at www.specialolympicsny.org or call the regional offices at 845-765-2497.

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