Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School has excelled in sports this season and that success continued on Monday (Feb. 24) when two Cardinal Special Olympics co-ed basketball teams competed at the University of Guelph.
The nine student/athletes from Newman went undefeated at the 3-on-3 Special Olympics Four Corners Provincial School Championship qualifying tournament.
Team White – Ernesto Caruso, Cassandra Taylor, Michael DiPietro and Chasson McKerracher – defeated Norwal (20-12), Kitchener Grand River (20-14), and Orangeville District. Team Red – Gabriella DeLuca, Nathan Steeves, Nicholas Morel, Alex Girardi and Gregory Ayala – also went 3-0. Their victories were 20-14 over Guelph’s John F. Ross, 20-16 over Bishop Macdonnell, and 20-8 over Guelph Centennial.
“In our first experience last year, our teams were a combined 1-5,” said Jeff Zwolak, one of the coaches who accompanied the Newman teams on the bus trip. “After the initial experience, we knew what to expect and what to work on in practice. The results showed. We went a combined 6-0 this year.”
The student/athletes experienced the excitement of a trip away from home with friends from their school. And when they stepped off the bus they received high fives from Guelph police officers in attendance. In terms of the competition, the players were matched against others of the same ability.
Zwolak says it’s a joy to coach the teams. He says the players give 100 per cent effort and receive the support of the entire school.
“When our team practises,” Zwolak said, “many students ask to come in to the gym to cheer the players on. It is one of the most popular teams in the school, which is saying a lot considering all the success Newman has had this season.”
Currently an assistant with the Cardinals GHAC champion senior boys’ basketball team, Zwolak says the smiles are priceless when the Special Needs athletes who make the final roster receive their very own Newman uniform.
“They’re proud, he said, “It gives them a chance to represent the school.”
The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board adopts an Each Belongs philosophy, meaning students with special needs are fully immersed in mainstream classes and not segregated.
“They are included in the Newman athletic program,” Zwolak said. “They are even recognized at the end of the year athletic banquet.”