They rule the pool

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Last weekend at the Area 22 Special Olympics in Hampton, Jill Mays came in first in three swimming races. But no matter what place she’d have finished, the 27-year-old would still be a winner – just like all of her teammates on Suffolk’s Special Olympics swim team.

&uot;I won in backstroke, breastroke and freestyle,&uot; says the Nansemond River High graduate, flashing her ever-present grin. &uot;I like 25-meter freestyle the best, because it’s easier and I can do it better.&uot;

Her teammate Cory Winston snared three wins of his own, taking a pair of freestyle wins and a backstroke victory.

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&uot;I like all of them,&uot; shrugs the 17-year-old. &uot;I just like swimming.&uot;

After hauling through the waters in Hampton and the regional games at Ft. Eustis three weeks ago, the top special Suffolkians, who practice at the Suffolk YMCA on Saturdays, will head to the state games in June in Richmond.

Kristin Dodds can’t wait.

&uot;I want to go there so I can be the best swimmer,&uot; she says. &uot;I think I’ll probably do good.&uot;

&uot;I hope they do well,&uot; says Pat Smith, watching her son Ethan work on his backstroking. &uot;They do well, because they always try really hard.&uot;

After starting the team with just three swimmers last year, Mike Clark’s team has passed 20 members.

&uot;It’s rewarding,&uot; he says. &uot;The expression on their face when they get their medals and ribbons is great.&uot;

&uot;This is good exercise,&uot; says Eric Ruffin, 31. &uot;I’ve just started, but I’ve learned how to go from one side to the other already. I just don’t know why I keep stopping!&uot;