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Pentathletes Smith, Wilder entertain visions of gold SPECIAL OLYMPICS


Darrell Smith and Damon Wilder have been practicing together for years.

Whether it has been basketball, soccer or track, they have wanted to succeed.

This weekend, Smith and Wilder hope that all the hours of practice they have put into their newest sport will be rewarded, as both will be competing in the pentathlon at the 1995 Special Olympics Summer Games at Towson State University.

The pentathlon, consisting of five track and field events -- long jump, high jump, shot put, 100 meters and 400 meters -- may be their biggest challenge yet. Other sports in the Games include aquatics, power lifting, equestrian, softball and volleyball.

"I want to win a gold or silver medal," said Smith, last year's sportsmanship award winner. "That's when I feel proud. The crowd . . . they applaud me and I feel happy. You practice so hard to do something."

Wilder knows about winning gold, having won the pentathlon in last year's Games. He is one of five local athletes who will represent Maryland at the Special Olympics World Games in Connecticut in July.

"You've got to train real hard," Wilder said. "My goal is to do the same thing as last year and win the gold medal. My coaches make me work so hard."

The coaches for Wilder and Smith are Joyce Goldberg and Bill Wood. Wood, 31, is a former cross country and track runner at Towson State. Goldberg, 30, is a special education teacher at Hernwood Elementary in Randallstown. She has worked with Wilder and Smith for most of the past four years.

"They have drastically improved in track and field," Goldberg said. "At first, they had no idea and had never seen the sport. Now, they are winning medals. It's very dramatic."

Goldberg says Smith is the type who gives 100 percent rain or shine. Once he learns a sport, the 28-year-old often helps coach other athletes.

Wilder, 26, realized his potential three years ago after his first year of competition in the pentathlon . After struggling with the high jump and the running events, he decided to redouble his focus and push harder in practice. Now, he is considered one of the best pentathletes in the state.

"Damon is one of three athletes that I have seen approach the 5-foot mark in the high jump," Wood said. "Prior to this year, nobody could come close to that mark. In the long jump, the average jump [among athletes with developmental disabilities] would be 2 1/2 meters. Damon jumps around 4 meters.

"What I am comparing him to are people who are specifically good in each event, not pentathletes who have to do all five events. He is probably one of the best pentathletes in the state, and we are hoping he is one of the best in the world."


What: Maryland Summer Games

Where: Towson State University

When: Today and tomorrow. Competition starts at 9 a.m. each day and runs until 6 p.m.

Events: Aquatics, power lifting, equestrian, track and field, softball, volleyball.

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