From the opening ceremony, to the torch run, to the athletic events, Naperville didn’t have to wait until summer to see the Olympic games. More than 700 athletes recently came to North Central College for the Special Olympic Spring Games. Several of the competitors were from right here in Naperville, including Liam Meza.
He loves to dance, spend time with his friends, and be happy all the time. He also has Down’s Syndrome. Right now, he’s a sophomore at Neuqua Valley, where he’s a five-sport athlete on the school’s Special Olympics teams.
“He’s kind of an overachiever,” said Cindy Meza, Liam’s mom. “When you’re given a child with special needs, at the beginning of their lives you’re just not sure what to expect. Sometimes people like to tell you not to expect a lot. He has exceeded everything that we could have ever, ever imagined and we had big hopes and dreams for him to begin with so we’re really proud.”
Liam is one of eighteen people on Neuqua’s Special Olympics Track and Field team.
“I am doing 200 meter run and shot put,” said Liam.
At Neuqua, the Special Olympics coaches don’t push their athletes to win. What’s important to them is that the kids do their personal best every time they compete, just like every other varsity athlete at the school.
“They get to be a part of a high school team, that’s recognized by their high school as one of their teams,” said Kim Weichle, Special Olympics Head Coach at Neuqua. “They earn varsity letters just like everybody else and so it’s a big deal to them to feel a part of the school and a part of that.”
That includes competing in front of all their fans in the bleachers. The team supports one another, with cheers and high fives.
“They are the best team,” said Liam.
When Liam runs his races, he knows he can look up in the crowd and see his mother taking pictures and just being proud of her boy.
“I want him to have fun and do the best he can and if he makes it, we’re really excited, and if he doesn’t we’ll cheer on the rest of his teammates,” said Cindy.
And while winning or losing might not matter, Liam did take home the bronze medal in shot put.
Liam is also involved with Neuqua’s Project Unify, and has spoke on behalf of the school at a national conference.
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