Maggie Rogers may have graduated from Riverside-Brookfield High School in 2006, but she continues to be part of its Special Olympics Illinois program.
“I’d like to keep doing it as long as I can,” said Rogers, 29, a Riverside resident. “I just like the coaches that are doing it, and I’ve known some of the kids that still compete with the high school. And I meet other people as well.”
This past season, Rogers joined Josh Sylvie of Riverside and Anthony Comicho of LaGrange Park as RBHS’s three qualifiers for the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games June 12-14 at Illinois State University in Normal.
Rogers finished fourth in the softball throw (15.77 meters/51.74 feet), Sylvie was fifth in the softball throw (18.09/59.35) and Comicho was seventh in the 50-meter run (14.05 seconds).
Athletes are grouped in divisions based on ages and abilities. Top-three finishers earn medals.
Softball throw results were based on the best of three attempts. At state, Rogers was just .23 of a meter or 3/4 of an inch from third place in a group of eight throwers.
“I did well. For me, as I’m getting older, it gets tougher,” Rogers said. “In past years I’ve gotten gold, but when I’m 29, it’s not easy. There’s more people (in my division).”
The trio qualified for state by winning their divisions in district competition at the Area 5 Spring Games April 26 at North Central College in Naperville. RBHS sent 13 athletes and only competed in athletics (track and field) events.
Rogers and Sylvie threw 16.58 meters/54.40 feet and 17.70/58.07 respectively, and Comicho ran 11.10.
Third-year RBHS coach Jill Musil was joined in coaching this season’s team by John Fields, who works with her in the school’s social studies department.
“I really wanted to also have a male coach so (our athletes) can see both sides, and he’s been a lot of help, too,” Musil said.
“We’re kind of a smaller team so this (season) is pretty good for us.”
This was the first time with Musil that Rogers qualified for the state games. Rogers previously won gold in the softball throw and had qualified for state in the 100-meter race walk and the tennis ball throw.
Sylvie, who earned his third state trip, just graduated from RBHS and was the school’s Homecoming king. Comicho qualified for state in his first season of competition.
“You get to meet new people, friends (at state),” Rogers said. “I like the torch run down at state. It’s just very cool to see, the opening ceremonies.”
Rogers is about three to four years older than any of the other RBHS athletes. She’s been glad to take on the additional role as a mentor for her teammates.
“(I tell them) work hard, follow what the coaches are trying to tell them, work with the coaches,” Rogers said.
At the end of the season celebration, Rogers was humorously given a team award – The Enforcer.
“She’s not tough in a mean way but she’s very good to see that everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to do at all times,” Musil said. “She never complains, she’s extremely upbeat and she gets other kids working as well. They see her as an authority figure because she’s older and experienced.”
Sylvie qualified for state in the softball throw for the first time. The previous two years, he advanced in the tennis ball throw and took gold in 2013 and second last year. A new rule this season limited tennis ball state qualifiers to athletes who would not exceed 7 meters/22.97 feet.
“He was excited to take on the new opportunity because the majority of (our) athletes do the softball throw,” Musil said. “Last year, he was quite upset he got second place. This year, with earning sixth, he was totally fine with it.”
Comicho comes from a family of athletes. He ran great at the Area 5 Games, faster than he ever had, but Musil said temperatures were much hotter at state.
“He qualified on his first chance so we’re really proud of him for that,” Musil said. “(His Area 5 games) surprised all of us because in practice he goes so much slower. Once he saw everyone else (at the start), they said go and he just went.”
Rogers only can compete for RBHS as an individual entry because of Special Olympics Illinois age restrictions for relays and team sports, Musil said. RBHS fields a basketball team that competes to qualify for that state competition in March.
Rogers also competes for the Greater La Grange YMCA in bowling and softball team competition. She has not qualified for state in either event, although Rogers did win a regular-season meet in bowling doubles. Bowling has its own Special Olympics state meet in December. Softball team state competition is part of the Outdoor Sports Festival in September.
The LaGrange YMCA softball team’s players who can participate in slow-pitch are transitioning from only playing games with a tee to hit the ball. Rogers is the team’s third baseman.
“I have a decent arm,” Rogers said.