Special to Iredell Free News
The South Iredell High School men’s varsity and JV basketball teams hosted a two-hour workout and scrimmage for the Iredell Eclipse Special Olympics basketball team on Wednesday afternoon.
The Iredell Eclipse proudly sported their new uniforms provided by Partners Health Management, and the excitement and joy felt by all of the athletes was evident from the start of the event.
Coaches JP Culp and Joshua Calhoun welcomed the athletes and led them through a series of exercises to warm up and fully integrate the two teams. The Vikings led the Eclipse players through four rounds of drills, which involved dribbling, footwork, shooting and passing.
Following the drills, the two teams hit the court for a couple of exciting games.
Chase Stroud, a South Iredell High graduate and the current holder of the Tony Stikeleather Special Olympics Iredell County Athlete of the Year, said he never imagined he would get to play with the Vikings when he was a student there. Wednesday’s outing was like a dream come true.
Stikeleather worked for years at South Iredell High while also serving as a Special Olympics coach, which made the event more special.
Iredell Eclipse Coach Randy Stroud said the practice and scrimmage were an empowering experience for his players and will have a lasting impact.
Evan Crater, a Viking player and Unified Partner with the Iredell Eclipse during their recent 3-on-3 gold medal win at the Special Olympics North Carolina Summer Games, said his teammates enjoyed the event and were eager to do it again. Crater always enjoys his time playing with the Eclipse, but felt this time was more special because he got to share that feeling with his Vikings teammates.
Coach Culp said he wished the two teams had gotten together sooner.
The big smiles, laughter and mutual respect displayed by all of the athletes highlighted a great experience for players, coaches and spectators alike. At the end of the event, the enthusiasm was high and the pride was evident.
Iredell Eclipse player Keith Smith said he had a blast and hopes the event becomes an annual tradition.
“They are my friends,” he said with a big smile.