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Locals compete in Special Olympics national games

LINCOLN, Neb. — After Natchez resident Chandler Warren was done competing, he made sure to call Mississippi Special Olympics Area 7 director Tommie Jones.

And he was pretty high on how he did on the first day of the Special Olympics 2010 USA National Games in Lincoln, Neb.

Warren timed in at 58.56 seconds in the preliminary round of the 50-yard freestyle swim, four seconds less than his qualifying time. He was also a member of the Mississippi four-man relay team that placed first in the preliminary round with a time of 1:40.

“Today Chandler told Tommie Jones, ‘I did so well, I’m really proud of myself,’” Chandler’s father, Ricky Warren, said.

Other Natchez athletes fared well in day one of the national games. Jordan Couch placed fourth in the 25-yard freestyle and backstroke, and Haley Freeman placed second in the 25-yard freestyle and third in the 25-yard backstroke.

In girls bocce, the Mississippi team, which includes Natchez athlete Sadie Saunders, placed fourth. Angelina Jackson competed in track and field events, but her results weren’t available as of Monday night.

Ricky Warren said all the Natchez athletes were excited to be a part of the national games for the very first time.

“There were a lot of celebrities here, like (U.S. tennis player) Andy Roddick, who is here helping with the tennis games,” Ricky Warren said.

“American Idol (Season Eight) finalist Michael Sarver spoke at the opening ceremonies, and was so inspired, he decided to stay the whole week. He was only planning to stay the first day.”

And it’s also rewarding to the parents to see their children compete and excel in competitive play, Ricky Warren said.

“It’s just been an amazing thing for all of us parents. To see children excel with the disabilities they have is awe-inspiring,” Ricky Warren said.

“Ellen Saunders, Sadie’s mom, turned to me and asked me how to describe the opening ceremonies. I said, ‘God put us here to see these ceremonies to show us why he blessed us with special needs children.’”

The national games run through Friday.

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