Crainville man ready to compete at Special Olympics Nationals

By Julia Bruck - bioemail

CRAINVILLE, IL (KFVS) - This weekend, some southern Illinois athletes will travel to Nebraska to take part in the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games. Crainville resident Charles Sneed is one of those athletes. He'll compete in bocce ball.

On Wednesday he got one more round of practice in before leaving Friday.

Charles Sneed and Joey Lewis, one of his coaches, get out their bocce balls. However, despite the questions and tips, along with fun banter there's still some seriousness to this game.

"I'm challenging you. Hit that ball," Sneed told Lewis.

It's something Sneed apparently does pretty well, as it's earned him a nick name on the Bocce Court.

"Destroyer," Sneed said. "Because I knock the balls out of the way."

That skill help Sneed win bocce games at the state level. But even with a win next to his name, there was no guarantee Sneed would advance to nationals. Lewis is one of Sneed's coaches at Progress Port, a day training center for people with disabilities.  Lewis says Sneed also had to win with the selection committee.

"This is the first time in 26 years since Progress Port's been open that we've had an athlete be selected to go nationals," Lewis said.

Four years ago, Sneed started work at Progress Port. A short time later, Special Olympics added bocce to its sports list. Lewis says it didn't take long for Sneed to show his talent.

"Everybody tried and he actually excelled in the sport," Lewis said. "He enjoys it. He likes to compete against different people."

"I think you played the red," Sneed said.

Back out on the court, Sneed continues to refine his "destroyer" skills. But for Sneed the court has brought more than just wins. He says the lessons learned on it have helped him in everyday life. Still, come competition day, Sneed says he has his eye on a prize.

"I am hoping I get first or do my best," Sneed said.

Latoya Monroe of Sparta will also compete in Special Olympics National Games. It's also her first time on Team Illinois. Monroe plans to compete in track and field. The seven day event gets underway Sunday.

Copyright 2010 KFVS. All rights reserved.