Special Olympics Jeff City

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JEFFERSON CITY — The Special Olympics Missouri Regional Basketball Tournament returned to Jefferson City for the third year Saturday.

The tournament was held at four different locations this year: Jefferson City High School, Trinity Lutheran School, Thomas Jefferson Middle School and the new Jefferson City Wellness and Recreation Center.

This is the first event to be held in the new center, which has allowed the tournament to expand its number of teams and room for spectators.

Harrison McLean, Public Relations and Volunteer Coordinator for Special Olympics Missouri, said the tournament had a 50 percent increase of participants from the tournament’s last two years in Jefferson City.

“It really does a lot for our Jeff City tournament here. We can hold so much more. We were projected to have an increase of 300-400 people competing,” McLean said.

The tournament hosted 117 teams, including 1,144 athletes and coaches from across the state.

McLean added that he’s thrilled to see the tournament grow so exponentially and gives a lot of the credit to the new center.

“It’s an honor to be here. It’s been a top-notch facility so far. The courts are great, they’ve still got that new gym smell which is really cool,” he said.

Teams playing in the tournament are competing for a spot in the State Indoor Games at Fort Leonard Wood. Any team that earns a gold or silver earns that honor. As an added bonus, any teams who then earn gold at the state level get a chance to qualify for Missouri’s representative team at the 2018 USA games.

“There’s a little added pressure. Lots of people are talking about making it to state and trying to make it on that team,” McLean added.

The Special Olympics State Indoor Games will be held March 17-19.