Colter Dunagan wears a lot of hats throughout his day. To his two young children, he is Dad; to SD School of Mines & Technology he is a research assistant and an engineering graduate student; and at Rushmore CrossFit and to four athletes on the Special Olympics’s Rapid City Flame – Colter is Coach.
About a year and a half ago, Colter began to brainstorm ways he could bring positivity into his life and how he could use his knowledge to help others. When someone tagged him in a Facebook video – the idea clicked.
Rapid City had never had a powerlifting team with the Special Olympics before, but Colter was eager to get connected. After reaching out, he got the program set up and three athletes were added to his team – eventually adding a fourth this year.
The ultimate goal of training is to do well at the South Dakota Special Olympics every year in May. This year, all four athletes received medals in their divisions with the hard work they’ve put in and an outstanding coach leading the way.
“Colter has developed incredible coaching ability to tailor to each athlete in the same session,” explains Traie Roberson, owner at Rushmore CrossFit. “He spends countless hours researching and learning the best practices for special needs athletes.”
And he does it for the love of his team.
“The biggest success as a coach is watching the progress the athletes make,” says Colter. The guys are lifting three times more than what they began at and their health is getting better. According to countless journals and researchers, weightlifting benefits both cognitive function and overall health – a big win in Colter’s book.
“Knowing I’m helping them be healthier in the long term is all I could ask for as a coach.”
Usually, when the state competition ends for Special Olympics – so does the coaching explains Anne Marie Wilson, a parent to one of Colter’s athletes. However, the powerlifting team has continued year-round to maintain stamina and enforce what they have learned through repetition thanks to Colter’s selflessness.
The team practices once each week and it’s something everyone looks forward to. Coming in to the gym hyped up and enthusiastic, the energy is magnetic.
“I’m pretty sure it’s one of the best parts of their week, and I know it’s one of the best parts of mine,” says Colter.