State champion, check. National champion, check. Now, Meadville resident Bill Shaulis is taking his talents to the international stage.
Shaulis, who owns more than 50 Special Olympics medals over a 35-year career as a distance runner, is taking part in the 2013 Winter World Games, which are Jan. 26 to Feb. 5, 2013, at Pyeongchang, Korea.
After years of competing, Shaulis takes on a different task at the Winter World Games. He’s among those receiving the honor of running in the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg.
Law Enforcement officials and Special Olympics athletes, unified as a part of the Final Leg Team, are to promote the messages of inclusion, acceptance and ability every step of the Final Leg journey to promote the 2013 Winter World Games, according to the Special Olympics.
“It’s a high honor for Special Olympics athletes to go on a trip like this,” Shaulis said.
The 46-year-old most recently won a gold medal and two silvers at the 2010 USA National Games in Lincoln, Neb. He was the anchor leg of the gold medal winner 4x400-meter relay team, which recorded a time of 5:36.12. He also won silver in the 5,000 (20:48.39) and 1,500 (5:25.49). Shaulis said he was less than a second away from first place in the 1,500.
Shaulis was nominated to the Winter World Games as a Pennsylvania representative. However, he was unsure if he would be selected by the international committee.
“My chances were slim to none,” said Shaulis, who was surprised to receive the honor. “I was picked to go over because of how talented I am and because of my running abilities.”
He then got word in June of his inclusion at the Winter World Games via email.
“At that time when I started reading it back in June, ‘You’ve been picked,’ ” Shaulis said as his face brightened. “I was shocked. I was blown away.”
At 46 years old, Shaulis is a unique competitor of the Special Olympics. His ability matches him against 20-year-olds. Yet, he continues to succeed.
“There aren’t too many people his age with his ability,” Crawford County Special Olympics volunteer Donna Johnson said. “So he really often has to get paired with younger runners. It’s really a good thing that he has kept up with fitness as far as his age, and he competes with much younger people.”
Shaulis’ coach, Mike Shea, will drive Shaulis to Pittsburgh International Airport, where Shaulis will fly to California. The next stop after California will be South Korea.
“It’s going to be completely different for my first time on foreign soil,” Shaulis said.
Shaulis won’t receive his criteria for the trip until he arrives in Korea, but he expects to be constantly on the move. All he knows is that he’s leaving Meadville on Jan. 20 and will return on Jan. 31.
He said that he’s prepared for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I’m taking a camera with me, I’m taking (photo-storage) cards with me, and I’m going to fill up the cards as much as possible,” he said.
Dan Walk can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.