Top of the Morning, April 13, 2014

Top of the Morning, April 13, 2014

For someone who has accomplished so much in Special Olympics, Sarah Meents is not easily floored by recognition.

But in January, the 31-year-old Centennial High grad was left speechless after receiving one of the highest honors in the state at a big-time banquet in Chicago.

Literally.

"What happened was she went on stage, shook hands and sat back down," said her father, Dick Meents. "She does not get nervous. But she was so surprised, so excited and so overwhelmed by the award that she forgot to say 'Thanks.' "

But like many of Sarah's stories, this one has a happy ending.

Before an all-ears crowd at Champaign-Urbana Special Recreation's annual sports banquet Monday at the Hilton Garden Inn, Sarah got a second chance. She was allowed to deliver the speech she forgot to make in Chicago. In a program chock-full of highlights — CUSR recognized its athletes and coaches, including three headed to June's Special Olympic USA Games in New Jersey — Sarah's re-do was a show-stopper.

"She came through," Dick said. And Dad's off the hook.

Wanting to surprise his daughter, Dick fudged a story to get Sarah to Chicago, never mentioning that she'd be receiving the prestigious Inspirational Participant Award. Who knew she'd react so quietly?

This is, after all, an athlete who has won so many medals her parents stopped hanging them on coat hooks at home. "They got too heavy, pulled 'em off the wall," Dick said. Sarah excels at bowling (she averages 140) to weightlifting (she benches 110) to basketball ("she knows how to use the backboard," Dick said) to everything in between (softball, speedskating, volleyball, swimming, etc).

She's a smooth speaker, too. Even it takes a couple tries to get her message across.

"She really wanted to thank them, and it was good for her to do it," Dick said. "It couldn't have turned out any better."

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