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Swimming into the hearts of Airmen sponsors

Easton Slutz, District 5 Special Olympics Mississippi athlete, celebrates with U.S. Air Force Airman Kaimryn Hursch, 336th Training Squadron student, during SOMS at the City of Biloxi Natatorium, May 12, 2018. Throughout the SOMS weekend, Slutz’s Airman Sponsors spent time and cheered him on while he competed in the 4x100 freestyle relay, 50 meter backstroke and 50 meter freestyle. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Suzie Plotnikov)

Easton Slutz, District 5 Special Olympics Mississippi athlete, celebrates with U.S. Air Force Airman Kaimryn Hursch, 336th Training Squadron student, during SOMS at the City of Biloxi Natatorium, May 12, 2018. Throughout the SOMS weekend, Slutz’s Airman Sponsors spent time and cheered him on while he competed in the 4x100 freestyle relay, 50 meter backstroke and 50 meter freestyle. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Suzie Plotnikov)

Easton Slutz, District 5 Special Olympics Mississippi athlete, swims in the 4x100 freestyle relay during SOMS at the City of Biloxi Natatorium, May 12, 2018. Slutz competed in three swimming events to include the 4x100 freestyle relay where his team won bronze. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Suzie Plotnikov)

Easton Slutz, District 5 Special Olympics Mississippi athlete, swims in the 4x100 freestyle relay during SOMS at the City of Biloxi Natatorium, May 12, 2018. Slutz competed in three swimming events to include the 4x100 freestyle relay where his team won bronze. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Suzie Plotnikov)

Easton Slutz, District 5 Special Olympics Mississippi athlete, U.S. Air Force Airmen Gabriel Agostini-Mesa and Kaimryn Hursch, 336th Training Squadron students, pose for a picture during SOMS in Smith Manor at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 11, 2018. This was Slutz’s first year competing in SOMS and Agostini-Mesa and Hursch were assigned as his Airman Sponsors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Suzie Plotnikov)

Easton Slutz, District 5 Special Olympics Mississippi athlete, U.S. Air Force Airmen Gabriel Agostini-Mesa and Kaimryn Hursch, 336th Training Squadron students, pose for a picture during SOMS in Smith Manor at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 11, 2018. This was Slutz’s first year competing in SOMS and Agostini-Mesa and Hursch were assigned as his Airman Sponsors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Suzie Plotnikov)

Easton Slutz, District 5 Special Olympics Mississippi athlete, plays pool with U.S. Air Force Airmen Kaimryn Hursch and Gabriel Agostini-Mesa, 336th Training Squadron students, during SOMS in the Levitow Training Support Facility at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 11, 2018. On the first day of SOMS, Slutz, Agostini-Mesa and Hursch spent the day getting to know each other by playing pool, basketball and dominoes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Suzie Plotnikov)

Easton Slutz, District 5 Special Olympics Mississippi athlete, plays pool with U.S. Air Force Airmen Kaimryn Hursch and Gabriel Agostini-Mesa, 336th Training Squadron students, during SOMS in the Levitow Training Support Facility at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 11, 2018. On the first day of SOMS, Slutz, Agostini-Mesa and Hursch spent the day getting to know each other by playing pool, basketball and dominoes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Suzie Plotnikov)

Easton Slutz, District 5 Special Olympics Mississippi athlete, holds hands with U.S. Air Force Airman Kaimryn Hursch, 336th Training Squadron student, during SOMS at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 11, 2018. On the first day of SOMS Slutz, Airman Gabriel Agostini-Mesa, 336th TRS student, and Hursch spent the day getting to know each other by playing pool, basketball and dominoes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Suzie Plotnikov)

Easton Slutz, District 5 Special Olympics Mississippi athlete, holds hands with U.S. Air Force Airman Kaimryn Hursch, 336th Training Squadron student, during SOMS at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 11, 2018. On the first day of SOMS Slutz, Airman Gabriel Agostini-Mesa, 336th TRS student, and Hursch spent the day getting to know each other by playing pool, basketball and dominoes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Suzie Plotnikov)

U.S. Air Force Airmen Kaimryn Hursch and Gabriel Agostini-Mesa, 336th Training Squadron students, spend time with Easton Slutz, District 5 Special Olympics Mississippi athlete, during SOMS at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 11, 2018. On the first day of SOMS, Slutz, Agostini-Mesa and Hursch spent the day getting to know each other by playing pool, basketball and dominoes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Suzie Plotnikov)

U.S. Air Force Airmen Kaimryn Hursch and Gabriel Agostini-Mesa, 336th Training Squadron students, spend time with Easton Slutz, District 5 Special Olympics Mississippi athlete, during SOMS at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 11, 2018. On the first day of SOMS, Slutz, Agostini-Mesa and Hursch spent the day getting to know each other by playing pool, basketball and dominoes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Suzie Plotnikov)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

“I don’t want to mess anything up,” said Airman Kaimryn Hursch, 336th Training Squadron cyber systems student. “I feel like we have a lot of pressure on us and I just want to make sure that everything goes according to plan and nothing goes downhill anywhere this weekend.”

That was the thought one Airman had while she stood in line waiting for the Special Olympics Mississippi athletes to start coming through the door. Hursch and her cohort Airman Gabriel Agostini-Mesa, 336th TRS knowledge management student, were nervous about becoming Airmen sponsors but they soon learned there was nothing to be nervous about.

“I thought he was absolutely adorable and when I went to go shake his hand but he said ‘no I got it’ as if I was trying to take his bag from him,” said Hursch. “He then bolted down the hallway and I thought he was just going to be the perfect athlete for me this week from the start.”

In that moment, Hursch reminisced on her years of being a teacher’s assistant for special needs in high school.

“I just remembered how much of an amazing experience it was for me back then,” said Hursch.

Like most athletes, Easton Slutz, District 5 Special Olympics Mississippi athlete, was shy when he first met his Airmen sponsors, but after spending some time and winning in multiple games of pool and basketball against the two sponsors, he started opening up.

“I think our energy together [Agostini-Mesa and Hursch] just radiated off of his and he just started getting comfortable and started to talk and laugh more,” said Hursch. “At one point he blew a raspberry at me and his mom said that means he liked me.”

Since picking up Slutz at noon, Agostini-Mesa and Hursch began to grow a relationship with him by participating in many of the different SOMS activities.

“Being able to go out with Easton and have fun with him playing pool, helping him build dominoes, playing basketball, racing around and laughing the entire time was definitely an experience I would recommend anyone to try,” said Agostini-Mesa.

The good times the athlete and two sponsors had continued to the next day where Slutz competed in the 4x100 freestyle relay where his team received a bronze medal.

“I was watching all these athletes that were going slow, I mean not everyone can be very fast, but I was very proud they were able to push themselves that far,” said Agostini-Mesa. “They trained months for this and were able to do so well. They were happy the entire time, and were proud of themselves that they got through it and it was absolutely amazing.”

Along with competing in a relay, Slutz competed in the 50 meter backstroke where he placed 4th and placed first in the 50 meter freestyle.

“When he won gold, you just saw his face light up and he was just so happy,” said Hursch. “It made me feel good about what we were doing this weekend.”

The memories Hursch and Agostini-Mesa created with Slutz were one’s they would never forget, and after all the events concluded, Hursch reflected on the impact Slutz had on her.

“I think events like this really humble someone,” said Hursch. “You can tell how excited he was to be here regardless if he won a medal here or not. It’s not always about winning, it’s just being here and being able to enjoy their company and having fun while doing it.”