Queen Creek High School senior Sheena Landry had her lucky bandanna on when she stepped onto the track Friday at Sun Angel Stadium.
Moments before the 400-meter relay began, the 19-year-old shook her legs and exhaled — it was the first time the high school was competing in the Special Olympics, and she wanted the gold.
"I just look straight ahead and take off," Landry, who ran the race’s last leg, said before the race. "I’m pretty fast. At regionals I took gold. All they saw was a purple and white streak."
The gun sounded, and Landry cheered on her teammates, trying to speed them up by waving them toward her.
Then her turn came. She lunged forward and threw her arm back, palm up, and took off — just like she said she would.
When she crossed the finish line, she threw her arms up in the air.
The Queen Creek Bulldogs had won a gold medal in the Special Olympics Arizona 2005 Summer Games.
"I can’t believe we did it," Landry said after the race, while starting to cry.
Today is the last day of competition at Arizona State University, with 1,100 athletes from more than 70 schools and organizations throughout Arizona competing.
For 30 years, the state organization has arranged sporting competitions and training throughout the year for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Seven Queen Creek students began training in January for the track event. Four made it past regional competition to the state championships.
"I think it gives them a connection to the school," said Queen Creek High School principal Angela Chomokos.
The school’s special-needs teachers and students’ parents said competing has had dramatic effects on the team members’ personalities and behavior and has bridged "gaps" between special-needs students and other students.
"I know, for Shane, he has been interacting more with people," said Michelle Arnson, mother of 17-year-old Shane Arnson — one of the state champions. "He’s always been aware of what’s going on around him — but now he lets us know that (he is aware). It was always a guessing game with him."
Queen Creek ninth-grader Kyle Lemaitre, 15, and senior Rudy Perez, 19, complete the state championship team.
Lemaitre said he joined the team because "it was a class thing, so I just went along with it."
"I can run really fast if I put my mind to it," he said. "I run in my neighborhood, but I get chased by dogs."
Lemaitre said before the race that he thought his team would "ace" the competition.
"Even if we do lose, it’s not about winning," he said. "It’s about being a team and being happy that you get to do something like this."