ATH­LETES TAKE THE FIELD

Eighth an­nual Spe­cial Olympics at Canastota sees stu­dents shine

The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY) - - Front Page - By Charles Pritchard cpritchard@onei­dadis­patch.com Re­porter

It was an en­er­getic af­fair as more than 300 stu­dent ath­letes took to the field at Canastota High School for the eighth an­nual Spe­cial Olympics on Wed­nes­day.

Stu­dents from all across Cen­tral New York gath­ered on the warm au­tumn day to com­pete in a num­ber of events, from the 50-, 100-, 200- and 400-me­ter dash, to the soft­ball toss, long jump and adap­tive games. The stu­dents could also par­tic­i­pate in a plethora of games, in­clud­ing kick­ball, once they’d com­pleted their ath­letic events.

Stu­dents in grades 8-12 also vol­un­teered to be bud­dies with a num­ber of ath­letes, as well as help run events.

Com­pared to last year, Ed­u­ca­tion Co­or­di­na­tor Lau­rie Ann Ross said the Spe­cial Olympics is closer to the 300 ath­letes then they’ve ever be.

“We prob­a­bly have 300 more in staff, bud­dies, coaches and vol­un­teers. I’d say close to 600 are par­tic­i­pat­ing,” Rose said. “I’ve been work­ing with spe­cial needs chil­dren for over 40 years now. I have been able to see so many tal­ents and skills that an av­er­age in­di­vid­ual wouldn’t be able to see. A lot of our ath­letes don’t get to par­tic­i­pate in the ath­letic events at their school. This is their op­por­tu­nity to show­case their tal­ents and it’s a joy­ous thing to watch.”

Among those par­tic­i­pat­ing was Ja­son Mill­son, a sixth-grader from J.D. George El­e­men­tary who has been par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Spe- cial Olympics for two years.

“I like run­ning and ex­er­cis­ing,” Ja­son said. “I like win­ning. Last year, I won the 100 me­ter dash.”

This year, Ja­son was par­tic­i­pat­ing in the 200 me­ter dash.

Be­fore his race, Ja­son said he had al­ready met new peo­ple from other grades and schools and made a new friend in the process.

When called for the 200 me­ter dash, Ja­son smiled from ear to ear and made his way to the track; he said he wasn’t ner­vous at all.

“I’m re­ally ex­cited,” Ja­son said.

When he does his best and wins, Ja­son said he feels proud rep­re­sent­ing his school.

At the end of the day, Ross said stu­dent ath­letes take with them skills they don’t nec­es­sar­ily learn in class­rooms.

“Stu­dents learn how to fol­low di­rec­tions and in­ter­act with peo­ple they may have never met be­fore. Stu­dents can in­ter­act with other ath­letes in a spirit of friend­ship and ca­ma­raderie,” Ross said. “We’ve been hav­ing Spe­cial Olympics in this area for decades and we just hope to go for­ward decades more. Our ath­letes look for­ward to it, our ed­u­ca­tional staff and coaches look froward to it and it’s a beau­ti­ful day for friend­ships to be rekin­dled and get out of the daily rou­tine of school to have fun.”

The Spe­cial Olympics dates back to the early 1960s when Eu­nice Kennedy Shriver saw how peo­ple with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties were treated in her own back­yard. The goal of the Spe­cial Olympics was to learn what th­ese chil­dren could do in sports and other ac­tiv­i­ties.

CHARLES PRITCHARD - ONEIDA DAILY DIS­PATCH

Stu­dent ath­letes and their bud­dies carry a sign with the slo­gan of the Spe­cial Olympics on Wed­nes­day, Oct. 10, 2018.

LEAH MCDON­ALD - ONEIDA DAILY DIS­PATCH

Stu­dent ath­letes com­pete in the 40 me­ter dash at the Spe­cial Olympics at Canastota High School on Wed­nes­day, Oct. 10, 2018.

LEAH MCDON­ALD - ONEIDA DAILY DIS­PATCH

Bai­ley laughs af­ter tak­ing part in the open­ing cer­e­monies at the Spe­cial Olympics at Canastota High School on Wed­nes­day, Oct. 10, 2018.

LEAH MCDON­ALD - ONEIDA DAILY DIS­PATCH

Stu­dents take part in the open­ing cer­e­mony of the Spe­cial Olympics at Canastota High School on Wed­nes­day, Oct. 10, 2018.

CHARLES PRITCHARD - ONEIDA DAILY DIS­PATCH

Stu­dents from Ver­non-Verona-Sher­rill, Canastota and Cazen­ovia race at the Spe­cial Olympics on Wed­nes­day, Oct. 10, 2018.

LEAH MCDON­ALD - ONEIDA DAILY DIS­PATCH

A Chit­te­nango school stu­dent com­petes in the stand­ing long jump at the eighth an­nual Spe­cial Olympics on Wed­nes­day, Oct. 10, 2018.

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