SOTX Announces 2017 Athletes, Coach & Unified Partner of the Year

All honorees will be formally recognized at an awards ceremony on Oct. 13 in College Station during Fall Classic.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE : September 25, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas – Special Olympics Texas (SOTX) officially announced the winners of its statewide Athletes, Unified Partner and Coach of the Year awards on Monday. Among the six honorees selected, Jarred Duran (McKinney) and Caitlin Ripley (Houston) were named the Male and Female Athlete of the Year for the 15-21 age range, respectively, while Laredo's Tino Serna and Laura Mashuca earned the same honor for the 22 and older age group. In the same announcement, Olga Gutierrez (Laredo) was named SOTX's Coach of the Year and Abilene's Tim Brown was tabbed Unified Sports Partner of the Year. All award recipients will be formally recognized at an an awards ceremony on Oct. 13 in College Station, during Fall Classic, which is SOTX's upcoming statewide competition.

  Jarred Duran (McKinney, Texas)
Male Athlete of the Year (Ages 15-21)

Duran, 19, has been involved with SOTX’s Greater Dallas Area program since 2008. Over the years, he has participated in several sports, such as aquatics with the Frisco Flyers and athletics, basketball, bocce, bowling and softball with the McKinney Mavericks. Outside of Special Olympics, he holds a part-time job at Kroger as a customer service clerk. In his spare time, Duran gives back to his community by volunteering at Hugs Cafe in McKinney, a restaurant that employs adults with special needs.

“He exuberates pride, dedication, sportsmanship and compassion in competition and in everyday life,” said Lisa Sadosky, a SOTX volunteer and special education teacher McKinney North High School. “Jarred always strives to do his best and works through his disabilities of autism, visual impairment and other health impairments like a champion. He encourages others when he is practicing, on the sidelines or even in the classroom.  Jarred is a true inspiration, leader and exactly what Special Olympics is all about.”


Caitlin Ripley (Houston, Texas)
Female Athlete of the Year (Ages 15-21)

Ripley, a Houston-area SOTX athlete, has been involved with the organization since 2006. Over the years, she has participated in several sports, such as aquatics, bocce, bowling, golf, soccer, softball, table tennis, tennis and volleyball. 

Outside of competing with her delegation – the Cypress Champions – she has been a familiar face at most SOTX fundraising events, as well as exclusive sports clinics put on by college and professional athletes, such as Hakeem Olajuwan and the Houston Astros. 

“In all the sports she plays, Caitlin is consistently a top performer and a team leader whether it is being one of our best bowlers, to being pitcher on the softball team or one of our fastest swimmers,” said Edward Good, coach of the Cypress Champions. “We count on Caitlin to lead us in competition, to be very competitive and to be a good sport and friend with all the other athletes.”



From left to right:

Laura Mashuca (Laredo, Texas) - Female Athlete of the Year (Ages 22+)
Olga Gutierrez (Laredo, Texas) - Coach of the Year
Tino Serna (Laredo, Texas) - Male Athlete of the Year (Ages 22+)


Serna has been a very active competitor with SOTX since 1990. Since getting involved, he has participated in athletics, aquatics basketball, bocce, bowling, softball and powerlifting. 

“Tino is an outstanding athlete and volunteer in our area and community,” said Maribel Santoya-Maciel, SOTX’s director for the Laredo Area. “Through the past 20 years, I've had the opportunity to work side-by-side with Tino and I admire his dedication and love he has for Special Olympics.” 

Since 2000, Mashuca has been participating with SOTX. Over that time, she has competed in athletics, aquatics, basketball and bowling. 

“She has made so much progress since she started competing and now she motivates herself to go even further every time she participates in the competitions, said Lihana Cedillo. “Laura has great self-esteem and gets satisfaction from simply being able to participate.” 

Coach Gutierrez , an adaptive physical education coach for Laredo ISD, serves as a head coach and head of delegation for SOTX.  She is one of only a few coaches in the Laredo area to hold coach certifications for multiple SOTX sports. Gutierrez is a well-rounded person and it shows in her students and athletes, as they enjoy being coached in various sports. 

“I have had the privilege of working with Coach Gogi since 1995 when Area 21 was only a local SOTX program,” said Santoya-Maciel. “She’s always believed in the mission and has continued to support SOTX in Laredo, as it has grown to become an area-wide program. She is very deserving of this award.”


Tim Brown (Abilene, Texas) 
Unified Sports Partner of the Year

Brown, a member of the Big Country/Concho Valley (Area 14) SOTX program, has been involved with SOTX since 2008 when he was in 6th grade. He started participating when his brother, who has intellectual disabilities, began competing as an athlete. Over the years, Brown has been very active with the organization. 

Since becoming a Unified Partner, a SOTX teammate without intellectual disabilities, he has competed with his brother and other athletes in various sports, including aquatics, bocce, bowling, flag football, powerlifting and soccer. 

“He is a true friend to his teammates, offering rides to and from practice when needed, attending birthday parties, graduations and spending time with teammates outside of sports,” said Megan Stewart, the head of delegation for the Abilene Mustangs. “Our Mustang family depends on Tim and he is a very important part of the success of the team. He genuinely cares about his team and is someone everyone can count on, both on-and-off the field or court.”

In addition to being a Unified Partner, he has progressed to a coach, competition director, key volunteer and an Athlete Leadership Program facilitator.

Steve Helm – Public Relations Coordinator, Special Olympics Texas
800.876.5646, ext. 2925 (office); 267.421.3911 (cell – media use only);

About Special Olympics Texas
Special Olympics Texas (SOTX) is a privately funded non-profit organization that changes lives through the power of sport by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect.  SOTX provides continuing opportunities for more than 58,800 children and adults with intellectual disabilities throughout the Lone Star State to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship.  To learn more, visit or call 800.876.5646.  Engage with us on: Twitter @SOTexas;;