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Farmington High School’s hosted a number of local athletes, buddies and adult volunteers who gathered May 7 to take part in this year’s Special Olympics competition held in Haile Stadium.

Schools participating in the annual event included Farmington, Arcadia Valley, Bismarck, Fredericktown, Kingston, Potosi, Ste. Genevieve, Valley, West County and next year's host school, North County.

On the football field, as well as the periphery, various athletic events were being held, while over the loudspeaker participants were asked to prepare for upcoming games and races that had not yet commenced.

Overlooking the whole enterprise was Jennifer Rose, program coordinator for Southeast Area Special Olympics, who assists with the “behind the scenes stuff” making sure everything runs as smoothly as possible while the participating MAAA schools do all the work upfront to make the event a success.

Looking up into the clear blue sky, Rose said, “We fit this in perfect this week.”

According to Rose, student athletes from schools across the region came out for the annual competition that always features a wide range of athletic events geared to the intellectually disabled (ID).

“For Special Olympics in general, to participate in a competition you must be 8 years old and up,” Rose said. “At this track meet we have school-aged participants, so we don’t have any of the older athletes at this track meet. This is our third track meet for Special Olympics this spring.”

Asked for a list of the events offered that day, Rose was quick to comply.

“We have running long jump, standing long jump, softball throw, turbo jab, shotput, all the runs — the 100s, the 200s, the 50s — and then we do some wheelchair races and assisted walks as well,” she said while barely stopping for a moment to take a breath. “We also have our Victory Village and activities just for the kids.”

Rose explained that the Special Olympics competition often proves to be a meaningful experience for more than just the athletes who are taking part in the events.

“What’s really amazing with this track meet is all the schools bring what’s called a buddy,” she said. “They are students from those schools that get to hang out with these athletes all day, so it’s a great experience for all involved.

“It’s such a unique event, too, because we rotate schools within the MAAA each year. It’s a neat way for these schools to also host and get to see what’s special about it on a local level. That’s one of the things that we like about it — getting to experience new facilities and new schools.”

Rose had nothing but words of appreciation for the many volunteers who helped to keep things running smoothly throughout the day.

“We have a massive number of volunteers here today,” she said. “Honestly, there’s only three on staff — so this is running because of the volunteers. We don’t have meets without volunteers … period. Volunteers are the lifeblood for Special Olympics to be able to do what we do at all of our events and all of our sports.”

Summing up the day, Farmington Superintendent Matt Ruble said, "We had a fantastic turnout for our MAAA Special Olympics. With over 300 athletes participating this year, it was a wonderful event. We always love to see everyone from all of our MAAA schools from the coaches, sponsors, parents and buddies who come out to enjoy the competition and celebrate our student athletes.

"We always want to thank our school coaches and directors for helping organize the event each year and our event sponsors who help make this event possible for our MAAA athletes especially the St. Francois County Rotary Club that is so supportive of our event and provides over 500 lunches and volunteers for the event."

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Kevin R. Jenkins is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-756-8927 or kjenkins@farmingtonpressonline.com

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