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Willmar notebook: Omar on the sidelines

Tribune photo by Rand Middleton Eighth-grade soccer fan Omar Cavazos joined the Cardinals varsity boys soccer team in 2012 as student manager.1 / 2
Tribune photo by Rand Middleton The racing Martins from rural Willmar are, from left, Joe, 17, Naomi, 15, mom Jackie, 51, Peter 11 and Jeremiah, 14, photographed Saturday at the Spicer Green Lake BMX Track on Rider Appreciation Night concluding the track's season schedule.2 / 2

Omar Cavazos, an eighth-grader at the middle school, is student manager of the Cardinals boys soccer team this fall.

He had a great time helping the team at home games.

"I'm so proud of my team for beating Marshall," he told me this week in a visit to his classroom. "I'm going to miss the games. What are we going to do? My team lost to Mankato."

Willmar beat Marshall in overtime in a home game in the first round of section but lost to Mankato West in the quarterfinals in a road game.

Special education teacher Jessica Figenskau has known Omar since second grade. This year she works with him on reading, writing and math. This semester Omar also has classes in science, social studies, Spanish and general P.E.

Omar is in the cognitive-delayed program, mild to moderate, she explained. Academically, he is behind but socially he's very much in the mainstream.

"Everybody knows him," said Figenskau. "He has a terrific sense of humor and a good attitude."

Head boys soccer coach Jeff Winter, a middle-school counselor with an office near the special education classroom, talks soccer many days with Omar.

Coach Winter had noticed that Omar had many pro soccer jerseys. In conversations, Omar revealed an extensive knowledge of the world's most widely-played sport and would easily quote relevant statistics.

Figenskau talked to Omar's mother about participating in some way with the soccer program. Mrs. Cavasos expressed concern for his safety and well-being. Though Omar competes in Special Olympic track and bowling, participating with a varsity sports team was quite different.

Winter and Figenskau discussed how the plan might go forward this fall.

Coach Winter said Omars would manage the equipment at the game. For instance, the medical kit, bag of balls, cones and corner flags. Since he often arrives right at game time, there is not a lot to do other than straightening up the bench and making sure the balls are all put away.

Coach Winter said a big part of his role on the team is to create camaraderie amongst the boys and just talk soccer.

"They are great with him," commented the coach, adding: "I think the players learned a little about inclusion and disabilities."

The day after a game, Omar and Coach Winter would talk about the teams and the goals that were scored.

By the end of the season, Omar was begging his mom to let him go to away games.

With the winter season dawning soon, it was mentioned that a Cardinal basketball team may need a student manager.

The Martin house that races

The Martin family got into BMX racing three years ago. Joe, 14 at the time, wanted to race stock cars.

That worried his mom, Jackie. An alternative appeared when the family attended the Fourth of July Parade at Spicer.

A free race at the Green Lake BMX Track on the edge of town was advertised.

"I thought that would be safer," Jackie told me last week.

BMX racing is held on a short, twisting dirt track with berms, jumps, rollers and table-tops to challenge the rider who is trying to maintain maximum speed. Riding takes strength, judgment and a bit of daring.

Doug and Jackie Martin have 10 children; four are married. Four children at home are racing. So is Jackie, who rides in the Cruiser Class. It has a 24-inch wheel compared to the standard BMX 20-inch wheel.

Four grandchildren also ride BMX. They are the children of their daughter Danielle and her husband Eli Smith of Litchfield. The Smith riders range from Elisa, 10, down to Jackson, 4. The Martins used bikes, parts and jerseys are handed down to the Smiths, as needed.

It's very much a family-based sport and good exercise, Jackie points out. It's competitive, of course, but the motos (or heats) are organized by age and ability.

Besides their home track at Spicer, the Martins, whose children are home-schooled, try to ride twice a week at the track in St. Cloud. They also compete at other tracks in the state. Minnesota lists 13 tracks; there are over 370 in North America.

This Thanksgiving, they plan to compete at the BMX Grand Nationals in Tulsa.

Doug doesn't ride. He has a business named Lake Country Scale Works.

"He works to pay our entry fee," Jackie said with a laugh. "He's our chief sponsor."

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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