Special Olympics: Earthquakes make their presence felt

The Hollister Earthquakes Team 1 and 2 won gold medals in the Special Olympics NorCal and Nevada Bocce Ball Region Tournament on May 1.

For the first time in program history, both of the Hollister Earthquakes teams took home gold medals in the Northern California and Nevada Bocce Ball Regional Tournament on May 1 in Martinez.
The local Special Olympics bocce ball team made history, with both of its squads winning gold in the same year. They bested a field of approximately 80 teams to qualify for the Special Olympic Summer Games Championships June 24 to 26 at UC Davis.
Team 1, coached by Anna Smith, and Team 2, coached by Cathy Gomez, practice every Saturday on the courts behind Dunneville Café and Market on 5970 San Felipe Road. The Earthquakes’ hard work and dedication have paid off in a big way.
“The highlight was seeing their faces when they learned they won gold,” Smith said. “Every time they win a game, it’s like Christmas.”
The Team 1 roster includes Tammy Trent, Eva Dalton, Gayle Smith (no relation) and Guy Smith, the coach’s son. The Team 2 roster includes Karen De Rosa, siblings Heather Francis and Joseph Francis, and Pancho Sandoval. Each player resides in Hollister, making the Earthquakes a true local team.
In addition to bocce ball, the Summer Games feature competition in aquatic sports, track and field and tennis. Team 1 has elected to go forward in the process, meaning a random drawing will determine whether it gets to participate in the Summer Games.
Team 1 went 3-0 in the regional competition, outscoring the opposition by a combined margin of 24-3. Team 2, on the other hand, had some serious nail-biters en route to the championship. Team 2 won by scores of 6-5, 5-4 and 8-2. For both teams, winning gold was simply a bonus.
For most of the coaches and players, the practices, camaraderie and the opportunity to be a part of a team trumps everything.
“I absolutely love being around the athletes,” Gomez said. “They bring so much to the table when they compete. It is truly something special to witness and to be around. It’s a lot of fun and an honor to work with these athletes.”
Even though the Earthquakes focus more on the journey than the end result, winning gold brings a certain sense of satisfaction that can’t be matched.
“Going to the Summer Games would be special,” Smith said. “The athletes would get to stay in dorms, and there is a big dance at the end of the event. The medals are bigger as well, and that’s a big deal to them.”
Said Gomez: “It’s extra special when walk away with top prize.”

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