Augusta Liddic/The Daily TimesRyan Hanson and Sgt. Dave Monfils followed by the Law Enforcement Torch Run Guardians of the Flame carry the torch during the
Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times Ryan Hanson and Sgt. Dave Monfils followed by the Law Enforcement Torch Run Guardians of the Flame carry the torch during the opening ceremony of the for the Poly Hockey State Championship.
FARMINGTON — Special Olympians from across New Mexico gathered to kick off their annual Poly Hockey Championship at McGee Park Friday evening.

Although numbers are down slightly this year, officials and athletes say they are looking forward to the competition today from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the park.

"It's our only winter sport," said Oscar Solis, operations director for the Law Enforcement Torch Run. "It's a unique competition in New Mexico because it's our fastest, most physically active sport."

More than 400 athletes from across the state will be participating.

Hockey remains the most popular sport among the Special Olympics athletes and among the spectators, he said.

"Farmington is one of the biggest supporting communities that allows Special Olympics New Mexico to offer this sport year after year," Solis said. "Hockey is a much more impacting sports experience. It's one of those sports that teaches spatial awareness, coordination, agility and balance. It drives critical thinking that impacts them outside of sports and in their everyday lives."

Farmington has hosted the hockey competition for four years. In that time, Special Olympics New Mexico organizers say they've found that McGee Park is the perfect venue for the event.

"I want to thank the Farmington community," said Randy Mascorella, executive director of Special Olympics New Mexico. "It's hard in this state to find a building that has room for three rinks.


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(McGee Park) is by far the best venue."

For the athletes, who were of all ages, including adults, Friday evening was a time for celebration and anticipation.

"It's going to be a really great year this year," said Ryan Hanson, a Special Olympian from San Juan County. "(Competing) has done great (things) for my family and for my wife, Desiree."

Greg Yee may be reached at gyee@daily-times.com; 564-4606. Follow him on Twitter @GYeeDT