Donald McLeslie, 45, competes in the bench press competition May 21 during the Special Olympics Colorado Western Area Summer Games at Moffat County High School. McLeslie and 13 other Craig Special Olympians will compete in the Special Olympics Colorado Summer Games state competition Saturday at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.

File photo

Donald McLeslie, 45, competes in the bench press competition May 21 during the Special Olympics Colorado Western Area Summer Games at Moffat County High School. McLeslie and 13 other Craig Special Olympians will compete in the Special Olympics Colorado Summer Games state competition Saturday at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.

Craig Special Olympians competing Saturday in Greeley

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Craig athletes competing in the Special Olympics Colorado Summer Games Saturday at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley:

Powerlifting:

• EJ Camp

• Jason Latham

• Bill Mason

• Donald McLeslie

• Dayla Pritchard

• Coaches: Billie Chase and Earl Camp

Aquatics:

• Ashleigh Santisteven

• Mariah Kowach

• Josh Chase

• Jeremy Gohr

• Coach: Jessie Harmon

Track and field:

• Derek Powers

• Sean Kilgore

• Ryan Ages

• Julianne Malley

• Spencer Herod

• Coaches: Alegra Corey and Brian Powers

Two years ago, Donald McLeslie wasn’t sure what he would be able to do in the Special Olympics, if anything.

McLeslie, 45, said friends, family and co-workers told him he had a gift of strength even though he lacked confidence in himself.

“Everyone said how strong I was, but I didn’t believe them,” he said. “I just didn’t think I was strong enough to compete anywhere.”

Eventually, McLeslie said, he listened to those around him thinking strength training may help him with his skiing. The Craig resident started training with coaches Billie Chase and Earl Camp.

After two years of training, McLeslie will be competing in the Special Olympics Colorado Summer Games on Saturday at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.

This will be McLeslie’s second trip to the state competition after taking third in 2010.

“It feels great,” he said of returning to the Summer Games. “Each year I get a little more confident and a little stronger.”

McLeslie is one of 14 Craig residents competing in the state competition with more than 1,100 athletes from around the state.

EJ Camp, Jason Latham, Bill Mason and Dayla Pritchard will join McLeslie in the powerlifting competition.

Ashleigh Santisteven, Mariah Kowach, Josh Chase and Jeremy Gohr will compete in aquatics while Derek Powers, Sean Kilgore, Ryan Ages, Julianne Malley and Spencer Herod compete in track and field events.

Each athlete qualified for the state competition during the Special Olympics Colorado Western Area Summer Games on May 21 at Moffat County High School.

At the start of the powerlifting event Saturday, McLeslie said he would begin with 240 pounds on bench press and 275 pounds on dead lift.

The plan, he said, is to set a personal best.

“My coaches think I can get 400 pounds on dead lift,” he said. “For bench press, I really want to get 265 pounds.”

McLeslie said he and his teammates practice every Monday and Tuesday at MCHS for two hours with their coaches.

The practice, he said, doesn’t only help him in competitions.

“Being strong also helps me at my job, too,” McLeslie said of his work at Precision Auto Services. “I help jack vehicles up and I help the mechanics with whatever they need. Lifting weights has helped there.”

Alegra Corey, the track and field coach, said the Greeley competition is “pretty important” for all the athletes.

“We have a competitive group of athletes who are always bringing up how many medals they have won and how they want to add more to the collection,” she said. “It is a blast for all of them to get out of town and to compete against a lot of other people.”

One of Corey’s athletes, Ryan Ages, 8, will compete in the 200-meter run, long jump and the 4-by-100-meter relay Saturday.

“I’m really, really, really excited,” Ryan said of competing in Greeley. “It is a lot of fun and I get to jump in dirt.”

Deb Ages, Ryan’s mother, said this is Ryan’s first year competing in Special Olympics and he was pleasantly surprised after the event at MCHS.

“Ryan was shocked he got medals and ribbons after he competed,” she said. “He has always had a lot of energy around the house so it was my idea to get him started, but he is more than willing now to keep doing it.”

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