Special Olympics

Doris Stevick and her son, Ben Stevick, a Special Olympics athlete. (Prince George's County Public Schools / October 23, 2012)

Ben Stevick, of Laurel, made the first turn in the mixed 100-meter backstroke on Friday as Paul Bauer hollered encouragement.

"Move it! Go Ben!" shouted Bauer, whose son, Matthew, was trailing Stevick in the next-to-last of 22 events in the 36th annual George Dobson Special Olympics Swim Meet.

A veteran swimmer with the Special Olympics, Stevick, 24, coasted to a fairly easy victory over two other competitors at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex in Landover.

The victory added to the growing medal count for Stevick, who is also an accomplished skier in Special Olympics through his Howard County team.

"He has so many medals we joke about reinforcing his room," says his mother, Doris, whose family lives in Old Town Laurel. "He is proud of every one of them."

Stevick was one of several Laurel residents who took part in the Dobson event in the shadows of FedEx Field. Other Laurel residents who took part included Gillian Eisenberg, Will Hudson and Janet Stallings.

The event is named for the late Dobson, a Prince George's County public school graduate who was an avid supporter of Prince George's County Special Olympics. Two of his daughters helped pass out medals to the top finishers in the 22 events.

Gillian, 14, also had a good day, as she took first in all three of the individual events athletes were allowed to enter. She said her favorite events is backstroke. "It is fun," said Gillian, a life-long Montpelier resident.

An eighth grader at Beltsville Academy, Gillian took part in the event last year in Landover and after that joined a Special Olympics swim program. They practice twice a week several months out of the year, with some of the training sessions held at Fairland Aquatic Center in West Laurel.

"She has been swimming all her life," said her father, Dave, a science teacher at Eleanor Roosevelt High in Greenbelt. "She loves the ocean; that is probably her favorite place, or the beach in general." When she was younger Gillian was a regular at the Montpelier pool in the summer.

Gillian, like Stevick, doesn't limit her sports pursuits to the liquid state of water. In the winter she plays ice hockey for the Washington Ice Dogs at The Gardens Ice House in West Laurel.

"She is very bubbly," says Mary Ayodele, who was a dedicated aide when she worked with Gillian last academic year at Beltsville Academy. "I know she also likes music and she likes [the television show] 'Glee.' "

Hudson, 47, has also taken part in bowling, baseball and horseback riding. He said his favorite event in swimming is the freestyle.

The meet attracted about 78 competitors, according to Trish Miles, the area director of Prince George's Special Olympics, which is based in Capital Heights. County high schools that took part included Oxon Hill, Bowie, Central, Forestville, Fairmount Heights and Flowers.

Miles said athletes can begin training at age 6 and compete at age 7; the oldest competitor at Friday's swim event was 65.

About 75 volunteers assisted with the event, which has been held at the complex for several years.

Stevick attended St. Mary of the Mills School and competed in swimming at Mount St. Joseph's, where he graduated in 2009. He spends many winter weekends working in the cafeteria at Whitetail Ski Resort in Mercersburg, Pa., where his mother is an instructor.

He has also taken part in equestrian events in Howard County and has played soccer. The third of six children, he has an older brother who is active duty in the Coast Guard and a younger brother who volunteers at Special Olympics events.

After the Friday event Stevick had three gold medal hanging around his neck, one which came when he was part of the winning 4 x 50-meter relay in the final event of the day.

"It was a good day. The backstroke was my best," he said.