Craig’s Special Olympics swimmers take gold |

Craig’s Special Olympics swimmers take gold

Special Olypmic swimmers Derek Powers and Mariah Kowach both brought home gold medald from the summer games in June.
Sasha Nelson | Sasha Nelson

A pair of Craig swimmers numbered among the super heroes brining home gold medals from this year’s Special Olympics Colorado Summer Games.

“Heroes” was the theme of the summer games last month in Grand Junction. Swimming competitions were held in the pool at Colorado Mesa University.

Swimmer Derek Powers’ favorite hero is Batman, and teammate Mariah Kowach’s favorite is Captain America. They think their coach Michelle is a combination of Wonder Woman, Iron Man, Thor and The Hulk.

Between January and May each swimmer must participate in 10 practice sessions. It’s Coach Powers’ biggest job to ensure they complete so that they can participate in May at regionals to earn the opportunity to go to the summer games in June.

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“It takes dedication from the kids and the parents.” Michelle Powers said.

Derek Powers and Kowack have been competing in swimming since they were each 8 years old. This wasn’t their first time to swim at the summer games, but the theme made it one of their more memorable games.

Kowach’s favorite moment was “getting the picture taken at the heroes dinner and dance.”

Special Olympic competitions provide athletes with the opportunity to develop new friends and have new experiences.

“It felt good for me to learn something new,” Derek Powers said.

He didn’t perform as well as he would have liked, but the slightly more experienced Kowach is determined to help him improve for next year.

“I’m so proud of these athletes. When Mariah first started she was pretty shy with her disabilities, hearing loss and speech,” said her father Rod Kowach.

Now when Mariah isn’t swimming, she’s standing poolside cheering.

“I help him (Derek) during free style. I urge him to go faster,” she said.

Participation in the local Special Olympics swim team has been shrinking.

“I wish we had more athletes come out to participate,” said Rod Kowach.

Other swimmers on the team, but not competing at the summer games, were Ray Updike, too young to compete this year, and swimmer Matthew Stehle.

“He’s a blind swimmer who competed at regionals. They use a clicker to help him go straight,” Michelle Powers said.

In addition to athletes, the local organization is always looking for volunteers and coaches.

To learn more about how to become a part of Special Olympics Colorado contact Michelle Powers at 970-629-8335 or visit:

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or

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