Photo courtesy of Dana Miller. Jessica Miller stands with her dad, Jon Miller, before the competition.

On August 17, the Brandon Sports Aquatic Center (BSAC) hosted the Hillsborough County Special Olympics swimming competition at its main location. The winners from the event qualified to compete in the Special Olympics State Championships.

Several students from BSAC’s very own TRIDENT (Training and Recreation for the Intellectually Disabled Enhancing their Natural Talents) program competed after practicing year-round. The program teaches special needs adults the importance of active recreation, proper socialization, interpersonal skills and independent life skills.

Valrico resident and TRIDENT student Jessica Miller was one of the many athletes that competed in the swimming events held at BSAC. She won two first place ribbons for the freestyle and backstroke events. She was also invited to say the Special Olympics athlete oath to kick off the festivities. Miller has participated in many Special Olympic events at the local, district and state levels for a little over 15 years now.

Miller, who has Down syndrome, has competed in tennis, bowling and track, but swimming is her favorite. She has been apart of the TRIDENT program at BSAC for three or four years now. She currently trains at BSAC two times a week. Candi Corsi is her coach.

“I have lots of fun swimming,” said Miller. “It’s a great exercise for me.”

Miller said that she hasn’t heard if she’s been invited to participate in the state competition yet, but if given the opportunity, she will gladly compete.

According to the BSAC website, this event brings awareness to the importance of the Special Olympics while supporting local special needs athletes. Unlike most sports, swimming is first taught to ensure safety and then for fun and competition. For those with special needs, swimming is a wonderful form of occupational therapy which allows them to be happy and healthy.

Special Olympics is a worldwide organization that has dedicated its time and efforts to making sports inclusive for all. With over five million special needs athletes competing in over 100,000 competitions each year, BSAC is honored to be able to host as well as have athletes participate in the Hillsborough County state qualifiers.

BSAC, is a community-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and is located at 405 Beverly Blvd. in Brandon. For more information, visit www.mybsac.org.