Two Torrington special olympic athletes bring home gold

(Pictured from left to right) Coach Sage Munoz, Anneke Kramer, coach Craig Schadwinkel and Ty Haeffelin at the Special Olympics basketball competition held in Gillette. Courtesy photo

TORRINGTON – Two Torrington athletes, who competed in the Special Olympic Games held in Gillette this last weekend, were able to bring home the gold. Seventh grader Ty Haeffelin, along with freshman Anneke Kramer, utilized all of their practice and preparation to take first place in their respective basketball events over the course of the weekend.

The games were held May 18-20, with three events being presented; swimming powerlifting, and basketball. The Torrington athletes this year focused purely on basketball.

The athletes were accompanied by Torrington Special Olympics head coach Craig Schadwinkel, along with assistant coach Sage Munoz, both educators at Lincoln Elementary School in Torrington.

“We were at the Campbell County Recreation Center, which is an incredible facility to be in the Gillette community,” Schadwinkel said. “We competed indoors, and the skills competed in were three different areas of basketball; passing and scoring, speed dribble, and the last one is called the spot shooting.”

Both Haeffelin and Kramer ended up exceeding expectations from Schadwinkel in the basketball event.

“We were very excited that Ty scored with the highest skills in the basketball competition. He ended up with 72 out of 80 points, so he was the overall gold medal winner. Anneke also had a fantastic day, scoring 69 out of 80 points, and won the overall gold medal for the girl competition. The kids have to hit the targets and catch the ball in order to receive points in passing. They have the speed dribbling set up into categories, so the faster you go will be determined how high your points are. In the spot shooting you get two points in one area, other spots you get three, and the last spot they can get four points. Then they add those together for the kids overall basketball score, and that’s how our kids were able to win the gold medal.”

Despite Coach Schadwinkel’s athletes taking home the gold over the weekend, he continued that the children’s growth as individuals, as well as developing positive relationships with all involved remains an enormous factor. Schadwinkel was especially grateful to the competition officials who dedicated their time and efforts into helping the games become a success.

“We had some officials, that made us feel great,” said Schadwinkel. They came up to us and said, ‘We want to thank you for the great talent you have. We can tell you spend a lot of time working with them.’ That meant a lot. We do work really hard with them to get ready. It was nice to see that others saw our hard work for them to get better with their skills. We always ask our kids, when the competition is over to go and thank the skill level examiners. Most of them are volunteers who are not getting paid to dedicate their time. We want them to know we appreciate them, and just want everyone to have a great time.”

Schadwinkel further added, “That was another thing. An evaluator said when the kids came up to thank her in person, that also had meaning. We always let the kids know, first impressions lasts a long time. So let’s make a very positive first interaction with the people that we meet.”

Coach Schadwinkel has also made sportsmanship, while treating competition with respect, as well as earning it as a top priority. This proves as an essential element to the growth of the athletes. When the kids are not participating in a game, they make it a point to encourage the other athletes with the same enthusiasm and support that they have received.

“I really enjoyed how our athletes interacted with their competitors,” said Schadwinkel. They’re usually right on the sidelines cheering them on and wanting them to do the best they can, just like with what they’re trying to do.”

Schadwinkel was also appreciative of assistant coach, Munoz, whom Schadwinkel claims has been an indispensable aspect of the success achieved in Gillette.

“Her and I are the ones that started the program back seven years ago. I just really appreciate her. I think she compliments me and I compliment her. She’s great in working with the kids, and I just feel very blessed to have her in our program. She’s a very valuable asset and adds a lot to the success of our program. Together we are just very proud that the kids want to put in that time, and be as good as they can be.”

Now that the spring events have been completed, potential athletes can look forward to more events being offered in the fall according to Schadwinkel. More athletes are always encouraged to participate.

“We will start up in the fall. We usually start in the late part of August, or in the first part of September. Our practice schedule is determined by the State Special Olympics Officer, which will set state competition dates. Typically in the fall we go to Casper, and so we’re required a certain amount of practice time for the kids so that they can compete. We try to meet those requirements usually about six weeks out from the state competition. As soon as [we reach] the first part of August, they will get those dates out to us so that we can get organized and get those things started.”

Schadwinkel is hopeful there will be more participants joining alongside him and Coach Munoz in the fall games, as well as continued support from community members. He made clear in his delight with the understanding that has come from public perception of the Special Olympics in recent times. He also encouraged those that may be less familiar with them to always try to keep a positive, encouraging outlook on children with special needs.

“It’s just neat to watch kids take a risk and be able of grow, said Schadwinkel. “Physically mentally and emotionally, the Special Olympics are about positive participation. I think when people think Special Olympics it can be in their mind, a stereotype that might be negative. They may not understand disabilities or certain handicaps. These are kids just like any other kids. They want to grow, learn and be the best they can be as they get older. It’s just wonderful to watch these kids grow, progress and see them accomplish bigger and better things.”

For more information or questions on the Wyoming Special Olympics, visit, or call Craig Schadwinkel at 308-631-3490.

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