|SPECIAL OLYMPICS: LAMB FAMILY ENJOYS USA GAMES EXPERIENCE (2018-07-28)
BY TIM TAYLOR
Valley Sports Report
OWEGO — With four of his family members cheering him on, Jared Lamb collected a trio of fifth-place finishes at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month. It was a special moment for the 16-year-old with autism — and those family members who made the trek at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington to support him.
"We've always supported him as far as taking him to all his events," said his mother, Julie Lamb. "Most of the time we all try to make it and support him. His brother and sisters that live around the area, they come, and grandparents. We've even had some students from Tioga go.
"He's very busy. We just feel like the more we are there for him and show him that we're there, the harder he is going to try and the happier he is. It's rewarding for him and us."
In addition to his mother, also in attendance at the Games were Jared Lamb's father, Lance, and brother, Austin, as well as another brother, Ryan Decker, who lives in Arizona.
"It's very important to be involved, because I feel like the kids try harder. They want to make you proud. That's his biggest thing. He loves to have everybody so proud of him."
The Lambs juggle a hectic schedule in order for Jared Lamb to participate in Special Olympics. Both of his parents work and Austin Lamb is also active in sports where he is a two-time state place-winner in wrestling and a member of Tioga Central High School's championship football team.
"They were holding up signs," said Jared Lamb, who has been involved in Special Olympics for five years.
Having his family in the stands cheering him on helped inspire him to run some of his best times. Jared Lamb drew motivation from his family's presence, and from numerous Facebook posts from fans and family members back home.
At the Games, he placed fifth in the 100- and 400-meter dash, and the 4x100 relay. He was also seventh in the 200 and set personal records in the 200 and 400.
"I beat my record by six seconds," he said of the 400, his favorite event.
"We were just blown away by the 400," Julie Lamb said. "That is the race that he is best at and he really focuses on, especially with Jonny (Polo Rankin) training him. Everybody says that is the toughest race too."
Polo Rankin, a track and field standout at Tioga and a rising sophomore at SUNY Cortland, helps Jared Lamb with his training.
Jared Lamb became involved in Special Olympics through the BOCES Oak Tree program. According to the BOCES website, the program offers students structured teaching, promoting independence, and provides supportive learning in academics, social skills, pre-vocational and life skills.
Through BOCES, he has also become adept in the kitchen with baking being his favorite culinary skill. However, he also has a hunger for athletics and has participated in several sports to include track and field, swimming, skiing, hockey, bowling and volleyball. He is also involved in track and field, football and wrestling at Tioga.
Special Olympics is celebrating its 50th anniversary, having started in 1968 by Dame Eunice Mary Kennedy Shriver. It gives handicapped athletes an opportunity to experience life situations they might never have been involved with had the organization not been founded.
"It just teaches the kids more, and they're able to get out more and explore, and see more people and just see what life is all about," Julie Lamb said.
"It's pretty exciting to see him be able to have the opportunity to go on and accomplish big things, just at anything, regardless of his disability," Austin Lamb said.
Jared Lamb returns the favor by supporting his older brother's athletic endeavors.
"All the support from him, that he can sit there through a whole day of wrestling, that's pretty impressive," said Austin Lamb.
"He really tries hard to stay focused on what he needs to be focused on, and being in Special Olympics has not only helped him to achieve so many goals, but it's also helped him with that part of following instructions and learning how to play different sports. Being able to carry that over to Tioga sports."
She had talked with Tioga football coach Nick Aiello recently and said that Aiello noted that Jared Lamb had shown so much improvement from last year in just the few days this summer they've worked on football skills, as well as in the weight room.
"For the most part, he does really well," she said. "He just loves to be a part of all of the other kids. He love to be a part of them. He wants to be like them. He doesn't want a disability," Julie Lamb said. "He wants to overcome that and be somebody, and keep trying.
His mother said some of the biggest obstacles he is working to get past are being overwhelmed and overstimulated.
"He's done very well with that," she said. "I watch him in many events, like going to Seattle and all those people in the stadium. He just keeps it together. He doesn't let it affect him. It used to be that he'd have to get up and walk away or walk around. The wrestling tournaments, that's just mind-blowing how he sat through those and still does."
"He's just been able to cope with a lot, just learn how to cope with things and now he loves people. He enjoys it. He doesn't show a lot of the academic parts that a lot of the kids do, but his social skills, I think they are amazing, considering he was non-verbal when he was younger. It's just amazing, and he didn't want anything to do with anybody."
Jared Lamb had to deal with a potentially overwhelming situation with the large number of people who attended this year's Games. Organizers were expecting 70,000 spectators to attend the event, but the final tally for the fourth edition of the Games was an estimated 101,500, including 39,000-plus at the opening ceremony.
Many of the more than 4,000 athletes who competed in 14 events at this year's Games will begin preparing for the International Games, which will be held next March in the United Arab Emirates. Jared Lamb is one of them. He will continue training at home, but will also attend a camp in Delaware in September.