Falk enjoys national spotlight

Nate Proell, Sports Writer

Oshkosh North High School student Jarod Falk, who has been training at Albee Pool at UW Oshkosh for the past five years, will be representing Wisconsin at the Special Olympics USA Games July 1-6 in Seattle.

Seventeen-year-old Falk, who has autism, has been swimming with the Special Olympics Team Blue since 2013, which holds practices twice a week at Albee Pool. The practices are coached by Team Blue’s head coach Debbie Hoff and volunteers from the UWO team.

Falk’s accomplishment of participating in the Special Olympics USA Games, which hosts more than 4,000 athletes from all 50 states, was earned by his gold medal finish in the 100-meter backstroke at the 2017 Special Olympics Wisconsin state summer games.

His gold finish earned him an invitation to the Team Wisconsin Selection camp where he was randomly selected to represent Wisconsin at the USA Games.

Falk said he is excited for the opportunity to represent Wisconsin and recognizes that he is very fortunate to be able to swim at the King County Aquatic Center in Seattle, a pool that is often used for Olympic qualifying rounds.

“This is a once in a lifetime experience; almost nobody gets this experience,” Falk said. “They’re designing [USA Games] around the real Olympics. There will be an athlete village. They are basically trying to replicate the Olympics.”

When head coach Chris Culp arrived at UWO three years ago, he gained an understanding of the relationship that UWO and Special Olympics had. Culp said the relationship between his team and the Special Olympics athletes they get to work with is something that everyone involved cherishes.

“It’s part of [Division III’s] philosophy to work with Special Olympics,” Culp said. “I always thought it was very beneficial for our kids to work with them and for those kids to work with us. It’s a very reciprocal relationship. The UWO team here learns a lot from the experience.”

Hoff said she believes the opportunity for her athletes on Team Blue to work with D-III swimmers is a learning experience that Falk would not be able to receive anywhere else.

“He has a lot of natural abilities, but he tries really hard,” Hoff said. “When we adjust his technique he listens and he incorporates that, but a lot of it he is able to fold in what we try to correct and what he tries to change and help improve to shave time. He doesn’t give up. I would say that’s the big thing about Jarod, he just doesn’t give up.”

UWO junior Ian Sewell is one of the 13 swimmers who volunteer to work with Team Blue. He said Falk is a very fast learner who always gives his best.

“He’s got a good understanding of what’s going on,” Sewell said. “If you give him a new set or drill he will take it on and go for it full force. He’s not gonna hold anything back.”

Falk said while he has been experiencing great successes lately, he believes that winning is not what it is all about. Instead, he says that working hard and achieving goals is what makes it fun.

“Positive attitude is the biggest factor,” Falk said. “If you keep a positive attitude you will swim much better. It’s not all about winning or losing either. It’s about the experience and beating your own time.”

Falk said he considers Albee Pool his home pool and when he graduates from high school he plans on continuing his education into college. He said UWO is one of the top schools on his list.

“This is one of my options, UW Oshkosh,” Falk said. “I’m looking to go into business [and] human resources.”