RBHS Special Olympian Shawn Spera enjoys a break on the sidelines. (Photo by Vytas Cuplinskas)

The Riverside-Brookfield High School Special Olympics track and field team turned in another impressive showing at the annual summer games.

The 400-meter relay team of Colleen Meade, Jennifer Bartlett, Eileen Cecconi, and Sigita Cuplinskas recorded a time of 1 minute, 22.47 seconds (nine seconds better than their previous best) to win the gold medal in convincing fashion at Illinois State University on June 12.

“I was so proud of them,” head coach Jill Musil said. “The parents and I were crying. We knew exactly how hard these girls worked and how much they wanted it. You could just see it on their faces.”

Meade (20.5 meters) and Bartlett (17.2 meters) each earned a bronze medal in their respective divisions in the softball throw event. Cecconi took silver in the 50-meter run (9.37) and finished fourth in the softball throw (21.5 meters).

Alex Lange placed seventh in the 100-meter run (17.55) and Shawn Spera was sixth in the softball throw (19.2 meters).

“I was really happy to win and get medals and support the team,” Colleen Meade said. “I was having a lot of fun with new friends and the coaches make me happy because they support us. I was having a great time talking with everybody.”

Meade, Cecconi, and Cuplinskas competed in the Special Olympics for the first time this year. A consummate teammate, Bartlett led the way in helping his fellow Bulldogs prepare for competition.

“Bartlett was such a great mentor to them and such a great big sister,” Musil said. “Meade really stepped it up. Cecconi and Cuplinskas rocked it on the baton pass.

“The way that they all bonded together was really nice to see because they truly were the definition of a team. They all came out to win and really brought it. To see that pride on their faces was just really special.”

The Special Olympics program at RBHS, which offers basketball in the fall and track and field during the spring, has been a great opportunity for the athletes and their families to have fun, develop friendships and support each other.

“Jill Musil and (co-head coach) John Fields are such sweethearts,” said Kathleen Meade, Colleen’s mother. “They are great mentors. Just being involved with kids that Colleen can call friends is a really great thing.”

The entire Bulldogs Special Olympics track and field team had success in the spring games as well. The 400 relay took first place with a time of 1:31.95. Spera won the softball throw (19.96 meters) and Lange took first in the 100 (17.61). Meade earned first place in the softball throw (18.64 meters) in the spring games, while Cecconi was first in the softball throw (23.31 meters) and 50 (10.12).

“Being on this team is really about the camaraderie for Colleen,” Kathleen Meade said. “She was so happy to make new friends throughout the year. The winning was an added plus; they were all so happy. Being able to be with friends is what it’s all about.”