State Champion Runner Chooses SONH

Manchester, NH (June 18, 2020) – Special Olympics New Hampshire was recently the recipient of a $1000.00 cash donation. This particular donation has a story behind it.

Jake Velazquez has just graduated from Keene High School. Jake is a Cross-Country/Distance Runner with some impressive stats. In 2019 he won the NHIAA Division 1 boys championship race with a winning time of 15 minutes and 32.4 seconds. That win led to state title honors for Velazquez and second place finish for the Keene High School team. That runner-up finish for the team was good enough to put the team into the NHIAA Meet of Champions race later in 2019. Velazquez won that race in 15 minutes and 12.5 seconds. That time is a personal best for Velazquez, the third fastest time ever on the Nashua course and the second-best time in the history of the Meet of Champions.

Those achievements are only a part of what got the 18-year-old named as the Gatorade New Hampshire Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year for 2019-2020. The Gatorade-sponsored program recognizes one winner every year in each of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The award recognizes not only athletic ability, but also high academic standards and exemplary character.

Velazquez has been running competitively since 7th grade. He credits his mother with starting him on his running career telling him “you need to get out of the house” he says in a voice impersonating his mom. He insists that his mother knows about his impression of her voice and admits that he was a pretty active child and there was good reason to find an outlet for his energy.

Candidates for the Gatorade award must be nominated by a coach other than their own. Jake says he has his suspicions about who nominated him, but really does not know who it was that submitted his name for the award.

The Gatorade title comes with a $1000.00 cash grant that must be awarded to a local or national youth sports organization. Velazquez chose to direct his grant to Special Olympics New Hampshire. He says that he was aware of Special Olympics as a sports organization for those with intellectual disabilities, but was thrilled to learn that SONH has 7 local programs in the Monadnock region where he lives saying “I really wanted the money to go to someplace around here.”

In addition to the local programs in the region, Keene High School is one of over 80 schools in the Granite State that has achieved Unified Champion School© status. The Special Olympics Unified Champion School© program promotes meaningful social inclusion by bringing together students with and without intellectual disabilities to create accepting school environments. The program utilizes three interconnected components: Special Olympics Unified Sports©, inclusive youth leadership and whole school engagement.

“Sports is a great vehicle for bringing people together. SONH congratulates Jake on his impressive achievements and thanks him for choosing us as the recipient of the Gatorade grant” said SONH President and CEO Mary Conroy. Jake Velazquez has signed a National Letter of Intent to run on scholarship at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. While he is not sure if there will be a running season this fall, he’s looking forward to college.

About Special Olympics New Hampshire
Special Olympics New Hampshire (SONH) is an accredited program of Special Olympics International (SOI) and is part of an international global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world.  We empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all.  Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance.


Contact: Mark Ericson
603-624-1250 Ext. 22