Starr Kluttz has been participating in Special Olympics for 35 years. A few months ago, her mother Sylvia received a phone call with some of the best news Starr ever received as an athlete.
When Starr returned home from work around lunchtime, Sylvia let her know that she had been selected to compete in the Special Olympics World Summer Games in July in Los Angeles.
Said Sylvia, “(Starr) jumped up and said ‘Oh no, not me. Thank you, Jesus.’”
Starr, a 51-year-old Rimertown resident, will be competing in aquatics, an event she has thrived in for more than half her life. She will likely participate in the 100-meter breaststroke, the 50-meter freestyle and the 50-meter backstroke. Starr may also compete in some relay events.
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“I was really excited,” Starr said. “I’m ready to go. It’s going to be a long flight.”
Starr has traveled for major Special Olympics events before. Among the most exciting competitions she has participated in is the 1983 International Summer Games in Louisiana where she won a gold medal.
Special Olympics athletes get selected to compete for national and international events through a lottery system. Local coordinators submit their athletes’ names on their behalf. Cabarrus County coordinator Emily Riley made the phone call with the news of Starr’s selection in January.
“Everyone at Special Olympics of Cabarrus County is proud of Starr that she will be representing not only Cabarrus County but also our country,” said Riley.
On April 16, Starr will help kick off Cabarrus County’s annual Spring Games, a set of mostly track and field events that usually draws an average of 325 athletes over two days. Starr will not compete, but she will read the Athlete’s Oath as part of the opening ceremonies.
Starr is also in the process of raising funds for her trip to the World Games. The estimated cost of the trip is $3,500 and so far more than half of that amount has been raised on her behalf. Cannon School’s middle school students have contributed $1,500.
Sylvia estimates that Starr has received more than 100 medals by competing in Special Olympics on various levels. She often competes in the State Games in Raleigh.
Starr began swimming at the age of 4. Aquatics was a natural event for her when she joined Special Olympics in the late 1970s.
Starr loves animals, works at a fast food restaurant, and helps with Sunday school and vacation Bible school at Cross of Christ Lutheran Church in Rimertown.
Church is where she met Kristi Leonard, who is now one of her Special Olympics swim coaches at the Cannon Memorial YMCA in Kannapolis. In 2010, Leonard decided that she “wanted to help out” and volunteered to coach.
Cross of Christ Lutheran church member Amanda Faggart is also a member of the Special Olympics swim team, which has about 40 swimmers and a waiting list to join. Swimmers compete at regionals for a chance to attend the State Games held every June.
The swim team, which practices once a week between February and June, is divided into three ability levels: beginners, which receive one-on-one coaching, novice and advanced, of which Starr is a member.
Starr has mastered the breaststroke, freestyle and backstroke, and is used to swimming shorter distances of 25 and 50 yards. But last year, Starr reached a milestone of swimming the 100-meter breaststroke.
At the beginning of last season, Starr’s time was 3 minutes, 59 seconds. At the State Games, Starr swam the event in 3:37 and received a gold medal.
“Starr says ‘I got this (medal) for daddy,’” Sylvia said.
Starr’s father and Sylvia’s husband, Jerry, passed away in 1996.
Starr is serious about getting ready for the World Games. At Leonard’s encouragement, Starr is getting in better shape by taking a fitness class at the Cabarrus County Senior Center.
Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at email@example.com.
For information about the Special Olympics of Cabarrus County, contact contact Emily Riley at 704-490-8036 or firstname.lastname@example.org.