Valerie Romero, 43, aced the spot-shooting portion of a Special Olympics basketball skills competition in the gym of a Catholic school in the South Bronx back in March.
"I'm feeling good," she said. "I just can't wait for June to get here. It's taking too long."
Earlier this year, the committee notified Valerie and her mother Nancy they'd like for Valerie to compete at the USA games in nearby Princeton, New Jersey, come June.
"And I says: 'Wow. Valerie was picked again,'" Nancy said. "And when I called her, they started screaming at her facility."
The Romeros expressed plenty of excitement but no nerves about the national competition. Valerie has spent 15 years gathering Special Olympics prizes from all over the world.
"I don't even know where to put them. I got almost half my medals in sandwich bags," Valerie said. "I got almost over 100 at least already. Bowling trophies, soccer trophies, a whole bunch."
Valerie competes in basketball and floor hockey skills competitions and bowling events throughout the year. But at nationals she'll run the 400 and the 4X400 relay.
"Oh, she flies," Nancy said.
"Listen: I do the smack down. When I'm on the track, I put my mind to it," Valier said. "When they say 'on your mark, get set, go' you need to go. Pace yourself, but when you get close to that finish line, you need to really speed because you never know who's behind you."
While we could probably very successfully apply a lot of Valerie's sprinting advice to the rest of our lives, her coach of 15 years preaches a different message.
"It's not a matter of coming first, second or third," Coach Bill White said. "It's a matter of having fun and enjoying what you do."
White calls Valerie one of the most helpful and kindest athletes he has coached in 30 years of volunteering with the Special Olympics.
"A lot of them they can't do and you try to make those ones feel comfortable," Valerie said.
As for those ones who can do and dare compete against Valerie?
"I leave them in the dust," she said. "They can still be on the track. I'm at the finish line."
But off the court, the track, and the field, Valerie's philosophy sounds pretty similar to her coach's teachings.
"Get up and eat and go to work, program, put a smile on those guys' faces and just try to think about the good days," Valerie said. "Just leave that other stuff in the past."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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