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Smartsville's Miller makes history with trip to Special Olympics USA Games

Appeal-Democrat - 6/25/2022

Jun. 25—Smartsville resident Cheyanne Miller represented the mid-valley region in this year's Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando earlier this month — an honor that has not happened in Yuba-Sutter-Colusa since 1996, according to Area Director T.J. Fetters.

Miller, 27, competed in the 100 and 200 meters as well as the mini javelin, which is similar to the Olympic javelin throw but with a shorter instrument. She won the silver medal in her division in the 200, finished fourth in the 100 and eighth in the mini javelin.

Fetters said Miller was one of 18 athletes out of a pool of more than 29,000 in Northern California to travel to Florida for the USA Games.

Fetters said since 1976 there have only been a handful of mid-valley athletes to compete in the USA Games. Yuba-Sutter-Colusa has yet to earn a spot in the upcoming World Games in two years, but Fetters is optimistic that Miller could be a candidate for selection.

Fetters said the criteria for getting selected is that an athlete has to medal at a regional event to be considered by the USA and World Games committee.

Once an athlete medals, Fetters said he or she is then dropped into a lottery-type scenario, broken down by sport, as a way to give everyone a chance to compete at the national and world stage.

"It's like trying to win a raffle," Fetters said.

In the World Games, the highest a mid-valley Special Olympian has received is second alternate, Fetters said.

It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience — and one Miller has been talking about ever since the USA Games ended June 12.

"She really enjoyed herself," said Alexandrea Castro, Miller's sister-in-law and respite worker.

Miller and the NorCal Special Olympics team received a red carpet-type of experience in their trip to Orlando.

Sarah Lemberg, a Yuba City resident and Special Olympics volunteer who traveled with the group to Florida, said the San Francisco International Airport United Airlines team donated $25,000 toward the Special Olympians' flights and provided the NorCal athletes with their own provide Transportation Security Administration line.

There were also pom poms at the gate and people lining the terminal on each side cheering on Miller and the group as they boarded the flight to the east coast.

It was Miller's first plane trip, and the experience of flying for the first time in her life was perhaps equally as gratifying as the USA Games, Miller said.

However, Miller did not like the landing, calling it too bumpy.

But the trip itself was a success both competitively and for Miller's growth as a disabled individual that requires additional or specialized services or accommodations, according to Niki Gregory, who adopted Miller.

"Both Cheyanne and her sister, Alexis (Miller), have the genetic syndrome chromosome 15q 13.3, which is caused by a tiny missing part of one of the body's 46 chromosomes," Gregory said in a statement. " In most cases the syndrome is inherited but it can also happen randomly. Both girls are adopted and more than likely inherited the syndrome from (their) biological parents."

According to Medline Plus, the chromosomal change increases the risk of intellectual disability, seizures, behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders.

However, some with the microdeletion do not appear to have any associated features, Medline Plus stated on its website.

Gregory called the Miller sisters as different as night and day.

Castro, who drives both Cheyanne Miller and Alexis Miller to numerous athletic contests, movie theaters and other social activities, said Alexis is typically more outgoing than Cheyanne.

"Alexis likes to talk to everybody," Castro said. "Everyone is different."

Castro said since becoming the Millers' respite worker she has seen many changes in both sisters. Cheyanne, she said, has really developed more social skills during her 15 years with Yuba-Sutter-Colusa Special Olympics.

"Getting into sports makes her more social," Castro said.

Castro calls the local Special Olympics vital for those with disabilities looking to find a way to be part of the community.

In the decade-and-a-half of being a member of Special Olympics, Cheyanne Miller has developed numerous relationships both locally and out of the area and stayed active in track and field, softball, bocce ball, basketball and soccer.

"I do sports because I like to keep active," Miller said.

Y-S-C Special Olympics at NorCal Summer Games

This weekend, the Yuba-Sutter-Colusa Special Olympics will be at Santa Clara University for the NorCal Summer Games that run through Sunday.

"This will be the first in-person Summer Games since 2019," Fetters said. "The Yuba-Sutter-Colusa group will have 25 athletes and seven coaches joining over 865 athletes, coaches and volunteers from Northern California. This weekend event is the largest Special Olympics competition of the year."

The local group will have three bocce ball teams, six swimmers and ten track and field athletes competing Saturday and Sunday.

Each athlete participates in three or more events, Fetters said.


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