The bright smiles and laughter from the athletes on the track and the loud cheers from the crowd Tuesday signaled the success of the Third Annual Hopkins County Special Olympics Meet.
The sunny yet breezy weather couldn’t have been better if it had been specifically ordered for the county meet, the fruition of at least 3 1/2 months of hard work by event hosts Sulphur Springs and Como-Pickton schools.
The meet began with opening ceremonies at 9:30 a.m., followed by the parade of athletes. Approximately 130 participants from 11 schools were in attendance for the meet, approximately twice the number of qualifying individuals ages 8 to 99 who made last year’s event.
Student teams included Sulphur Springs High School and Middle School Wildcats, Como-Pickton Eagles, Douglas Dragons, Lamar Elementary Panthers, Clarksville Tigers, Commerce Tigers, Mount Vernon Tigers, North Lamar Panthers, Pairs Wildcats and Paul Pewitt Brahmas.
The Special Olympics oath is “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” The event motto is “Train like a champion, compete like a champion, be a champion.” Cydney Williams, who worked on behalf of Como-Pickton CISD to help coordinate the meet, explained that the event is designed to meet those goals.
“Every kid gets a medal,” Williams said. “There are three to a heat, so every kid gets a first, second or third medal.”
Events include male and female all-wheelchair events, all-assisted walk events, 25-meter walk and 25-meter FF; female shot put and tennis ball throw, 50-meter walk, 50-meter dash, 100-meter walk, 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash; and male 50-meter dash, 50-meter walk, 100-meter walk, 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, 400-meter run; male shot put, tennis ball throw, high jump, standing jump and running long jump.
“This is a serious thing,” Williams said.
Athletes must be intellectually disabled or autistic, and must pass a physical to participate, said Como-Pickton’s Gina McCord.
“I think our oldest athlete, or one of the oldest, is 73,” McCord said. “Getting a gold medal is, for these participants, what it would be for a person winning gold at state the Olympics. The achievement is so major.”
“This is what they live for,” Williams said. “They are so excited to cross the line and finish and hear the volunteers, teams and people cheering for them. This may be the only sports event some are able to participate in. It means a lot to them. To see them smile, that’s what it’s all about.”
Each Special Olympian also goes home with an event T-shirt and goody bag, thanks to donations from local clubs and businesses who contributed to the event. Alliance Bank provided lunch, Northcutt’s provided donuts and Ocean Spray juice for breakfast.
Other local businesses and groups contributing included: City National Bank, Cross Country Cowboy Church, Dairy Queen, Dial Study Club, Grocery Supply Co., Guaranty Bond Bank, Echo Publishing Co., Edward Jones-Mike Ream, Humphrey Dairy, Kiwanis Club, M&F Manufacturing Co., Pilot Club, Sonic, Southwest Dairy Museum, Sulphur Springs Autolube and Sulphur Springs Athletic Booster Club.
Sulphur Springs and Como schools invite students and volunteers to help at the event. Key Club and band are among the SSHS groups lending a hand. Como-Pickton also brought over 25 student volunteers. These students act as liaisons during the track meet.
“The people here are all volunteers. They’re not paid to do this. It’s funded entirely by donations,” said McCord. “Everything we do is in the interest of the athletes.”
“It’s a big deal and the people who do this like to help and cheer for the athletes,” Williams noted. “It’s a good feeling for everyone to do something good that makes the athletes smile.”
Olympians who compete in two local events, like the Hopkins County Special Olympics, qualify to attend the regional games in Cedar Hill, which will be held in two weeks. Those participating in Cedar Hill will be able to advance to the state event in Arlington in May.
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