Friendship makes trip to Seattle feel like fate

When Eloise Magill learned that she’d be running on the purple track at the University of Washington for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, she felt like it was fate.

“My best friend Tonja’s favorite color was purple. It felt like a good sign,” explained Magill.

The pair had been best friends for as long as either one could remember, but about nine years ago, they added a third member of their group in Michelle McWilliams. The “three musketeers,” as they named themselves, stuck together

“When Tonja (Cromer) was diagnosed with cancer, we knew we needed to stick together,” says McWilliams.

Stick together they did: Magill and McWilliams both shaved their heads in support of the third musketeer.

Unfortunately, Cromer lost her battle with cancer in 2017, but her presence in the lives of her friends did not diminish. As Magill prepares to compete in athletics on a national stage July 1-6, Cromer’s influence is always felt, right down to the purple shorts Magill wears for training.

Those purple shorts have definitely been put to good use as Magill has taken her training seriously.

For the past few months, the pair has followed the Team NC workout plan, hitting the gym five days a week and the results have been impressive.  Magill has gained quite a bit of muscle and McWilliams has lost almost 40 pounds!

“Eloise has always been very active in water aerobics. The gym part is very new for her though. We have definitely used new machines that we had never even heard of. We’re still doing water aerobics twice a week and we’re walking every day,” explains McWilliams.

They’ve kept each other accountable in making sure they meet their goal of 10,000 steps each day.

“Even if we’re not at the gym, we always look for opportunities to walk! Eloise also works on the stairs and last time she did 65 stairs!” exclaims McWilliams.

Magill admits they may not be her favorite exercise, but they’re certainly effective.

“I don’t like the stairs and the day after I did them the first time I couldn’t walk for a while, because my legs were so sore! But I do them anyways, because I’m determined.”

That determination has served Magill well during her two-decade long Special Olympics career, a part of her life that she loves.

“I love being a Special Olympics athlete. I love everything about it. I’m not being pointed at or laughed at.”

That feeling of acceptance and the friendships that stem from it are Magill’s favorite parts of being a Special Olympics athlete. She looks forward to expanding that circle with her upcoming trip to the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games.

“I’m so excited to meet athletes from other states. I’ve never been to the west coast before. I hope to become pen pals with someone I click with. Even though I’m nervous to fly, I’m excited to be on a plane with my teammates and just have a great time,” shares Magill.

A great time is in store for all of Magill’s teammates as the group of 61 athletes and Unified partners (individuals without an intellectual disability who compete alongside Special Olympics athletes) make final preparations to compete in athletics, basketball, bocce, bowling, golf, gymnastics, powerlifting, swimming, Unified flag football and volleyball.

Team NC will undoubtedly make new friends while in Seattle, but it is the lifelong friendships, like the ones shared between “The Three Musketeers”, that got them there and will always remain the sweetest.

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