Charleston High School’s “Meet the Trojans Night” has traditionally been an event hosted by the high school boys basketball team to introduce both the junior varsity and varsity team members. Then, the CHS players play a game against each other to kick of the year and boost fan enthusiasm.
This year, however, Charleston High School Coach Blain Mayhall made the night a little extra special by inviting Special Olympics Illinois athletes to join the Charleston High School players on the court for warm-ups. Coach Mayhall decided that all proceeds from admissions to the event would be donated to Special Olympics Illinois East Central/Area 9. But that’s not all – he also requested a game against the Mattoon/Charleston Hornets, the local Special Olympics basketball team, during half-time of the CHS boys game.
That is exactly what took place on Friday, Nov. 18, at the Charleston High School Trojans Gym. Crowds of Trojans and Special Olympics Illinois fans and athletes packed the gym for a night of excitement and inclusion. Special Olympics athletes from the M/C Hornets, as well as Charleston High School and DFI Sharks Special Olympics teams, joined the Charleston High School boys and girls basketball teams on the court before the game for warm-up shots, lay-ups and a little social dance off to boot.
Then, Charleston High School boys varsity and junior varsity teams were introduced to the fans, as well as the CHS cheerleaders, who were especially well received by the Special Olympics athletes. A fun and fast-paced first half seemed to fly by before it was time for the Mattoon/Charleston Hornets to scrimmage with the varsity CHS Trojans.
The 20-minute running clock scrimmage did not disappoint! While some fans were well aware of the ability of the Special Olympics athletes, some were in awe as they watched the Hornets go from single digits quickly to 26 points on the board. The Trojans were quick to rebound and showed strength in a comeback, but overall the M/C Hornets pulled out the victory in a 36-28 victory. M/C Hornets player Jimmy Peterlich, who also attends Charleston High School, scored five 3-point shots. Curtis Covington, Brooke Whitrock and Tyler Hahn of the Hornets also made shots for the win.
“This was such as success, and our students loved doing this for the Special Olympians. We have to do this again next year!” said Amy Jackson, the Charleston High School girls basketball head coach and CHS Trojans Special Olympics team co-coach. Athletes, families and fans will be looking forward to the event next year if the positive reactions seen on the faces of those who attended this year’s “Meet the Trojans Night” are any indication.
By Vanessa Duncan, Director for East Central/Area 9