The volunteers, “buddies” and athletes participating in the Special Olympics Missouri-sponsored MAAA Track and Field Meet, held Monday at Farmington High School’s Richardson Field, couldn’t have asked for much better weather.
After thunderstorms moved through the area Monday and more thunderstorms are in the forecast for the remainder of this week, the meet was held under partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the lower- to mid-70s.
“I was a little concerned about the weather when I was seeing all the rain and stuff, but it looks like you all have hit the sweet spot,” said Penny Williams of Special Olympics Missouri. “We always set a rain date and we hope we don’t have to use it, and this year we got really lucky.”
Williams provided some statistics for the day’s local competition featuring athletes from the MAAA region made up of Bollinger, Butler, Cape Girardeau, Carter, Dent, Dunklin, Iron, Madison, Mississippi, New Madrid, Oregon, Pemiscot, Perry, Reynolds, Ripley, Scott, Shannon, St. Francois, St. Genevieve, Stoddard, Washington and Wayne counties.
“We have close to, I think, about 12 schools participating here today,” she said. “So, we have 200 athletes that are coming to compete in track and field events today.”
According to Special Olympics Missouri, the athletic events featured at its meets include sprints, longer runs, high jump, long jump, discus, shot put and other track-and-field events.
Asked what the meet means to the athletes participating, Williams said, “They get opportunities for three competitions a year before they go to state, so this is a big one. This is a big day for them. Many of them look forward to this from the onset of when they come to school in August. They’re waiting to see when the spring Special Olympics date is.”
Williams noted that the athletes aren’t the only ones who will have an unforgettable experience. The volunteers and buddies who help make the event possible are touched by what they see during the meet as well.
“If you want to get your heart warmed, you will see competitors that have been training for at least eight weeks prior to competition and you will see some personal records set here today, so it’s awesome.”
Farmington R-7 School District Superintendent Matt Ruble was scouting out the field early Monday morning with the high school’s athletic director, Chad Mills. He recalled the school first sponsored the track and field meet seven years ago.
“It was back in 2016,” he said. “We had one year, obviously, with COVID, where we weren’t able to do it, but this is the third time we’ve hosted it. The meet rotates between Farmington, North County and Central. It’s awesome to have it. It’s fantastic for the kids and the buddies.”
Describing the meet as “a great event for the entire conference,” Mills agreed with Ruble that the track and field meet was a bright spot on the school’s calendar, saying, “Hosting the Special Olympics is something we all look forward to every year. It’s just an awesome event.”
He also mentioned the high school students who would be helping out with many of the day’s events.
“There’ll be a big crowd,” he said. “We’ll have a bunch of students out here from all the different schools around the conference. They will bring their students over to help out, along with ours — and it’s fun for everybody.”
“This is a big day for them. Many of them look forward to this from the onset of when they come to school in August.” – Penny Williams, Special Olympics Missouri
Kevin R. Jenkins is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-783-9667 or firstname.lastname@example.org