Four Morehouse Parish athletes participated in the State Invitational GUMBO (Games Uniting Mind and Body) Meet on Sept. 29 in Ball.
Established by the Louisiana State Department of Education, GUMBO provides competitive track and field and boccia events for students with visual or physical disabilities, from 5 years old through twelfth grade.
Delta Jr. High student Ky'ren Johnson won first place in the 100 meter run and discus, second place in the softball throw and third place in the shot put.
Eight-year-old Johnson said he attributes his win to the advice his mother, Evon, gave him before the race.
“She told me to run like there was a dog behind me fixing to bite me,” he said. “The whole time I imagined a dog was behind me barking.”
Johnson said right before he won the 100 meter run, he looked behind him to see what his competition looked like.
“I zoomed away and when I looked back, I said, 'Oh they're slow,'” he said. “I said it low, though, so nobody could hear me.”
Morehouse Parish Adapted PE teachers Jessica Pylant and Cindy Daniels coach the students. Daniels said she's taken athletes to GUMBO for the past 15 years.
“Jessica and I reach out to kids who we think would enjoy it,” she said. “We teach them the first year at school and after that, their parents coach them.”
Pylant said this is an “excellent way for parents to support their child.”
“Most of the children's parents and grandparents were there,” she said. “This is a great way for families to get involved with their children.”
Johnson said he heard his mother supporting him and the other children.
“I heard my mother screaming 'Run!'” he said. “I cheer for everyone too.”
Johnson said he plans to continue competing in GUMBO and watch his collection of medals grow larger.
“I have a lot of medals,” he said. “ I want to go back to GUMBO next year and compete in all the same things I did this year.”
Bastrop High student Alvin Higginbotham won a silver medal in the discus and a bronze medal in the shot put. Morehouse Jr. High student Craymon Benton won first place in the 20, 60 and 100 meter races and shot put. South Side Elementary student Katelyn Logan won first place in the softball throw, second place in the 60 and 100 meter races and third place in the discus. Delta Jr. High student Jordan Sykes won first place in the 60 meter race and the softball throw.
Daniels said there are many more opportunities for the children who compete in GUMBO.
“These students can go on to the Endeavor games and after high school they can compete in the Paralympics,” she said. “In the past we've had two students make it to the Endeavor games. They'll have these memories for the rest of their lives. This is a great program.”