Farmington High School’s Haile Stadium was filled to the brim with student athletes, adult volunteers and students who gathered on a sunny and warm Tuesday to take part in this year’s Special Olympics competition.

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, more than 300 students from schools across the area came out for the annual competition that features a wide range of athletic events geared to the disabled.

“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.”

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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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