Feat of a meet
Returns to Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School Saturday More than 100 athletes from Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties to compete
PLYMOUTH » Well over 100 Special Olympics athletes will run, jump or heave their way to some well-earned medals at the Special Olympics Regional Invitational Track and Field Meet on Saturday at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School.
All they need is a little cooperation from the weather.
Scott Otterbein, the Special Olympics Montgomery County manager, has been keeping a watchful eye on the forecast all week.
“We’re hoping the rain isn’t as bad as the forecast is, because we hold the event rain or shine,” Otterbein said, adding that only a heavy thunderstorm will result in the event being canceled.
“With thunder and lightning we’re required to stop due to safety concerns. We don’t want the athletes out in the open or in the stands,” he explained. “People can check Facebook for updates. It’s a big weekend for Special Olympics, with the Restaurant Rally the next day,” Otterbein added, referring to the Conshohocken AMBUCS Restaurant Rally, the annual tasting event that raises money for Special Olympics programs.
In addition to Montgomery County’s renowned Wicked Fast team, this year’s Special Olympics
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Regional Invitational Track and Field Meet will be welcoming several newcomers, Otterbein noted.
“Chester County is coming with teams for the first time in about 20 years, and Delaware County is sending a group of elementary school 8-year-olds who’ve never done a tournament anywhere. They’re doing a 50-meter run, which is a fairly short run. Another new team from Delaware County has 10- and 12-yearolds, and it’s their first experience as well. They’ll be doing the 100 meter and 200 meters and the long jump, and their coaches are really looking forward to it. This is new for them so we’ll work with them to accommodate their athletes’ needs all we can.”
With a new event scheduled for Saturday’s track meet, a 4 x 200 meter relay, teams from Bucks, Lehigh and Montgomery counties are expected to compete, with a goal of qualifying for the Penn State Special Olympics the first weekend in June. Elizabeth Malcolm of the Wicked Fast track team from Montgomery County takes off during the long jump competition during last year’s invitational event at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School.
“Montgomery County sends several hundred athletes there to compete in basketball, track, golf, equestrian and softball,” said Otterbein, who said that the dozens of volunteers who will turn out on Saturday are an invaluable asset to the annual event.
“We have volunteers from Walmart, AmeriHealth, Wells Fargo, the National Charity League,” Otterbein said, noting that some volunteers serve as buddy escorts for the athletes, sticking with them through the competitions all the way to the awards presentation.
As Otterbein explained, Special Olympics Montgomery County is accredited as one of 56 local programs operating under Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA), which in turn operates under the authority of Special Olympics, Inc.
The organization, which is home to around 1,500 athletes a year, offers training and competition for individuals with intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Fragile X Syndrome, from age 7 to seniors, in 20 sports at various venues all over the county, including Spring Mountain Ski Area, Boyertown YMCA, FacendaWhitaker Lanes and Flourtown Country Club, where the County Golf Competition will be held on June 24.
Coming on the heels of tournaments in skiing, ice skating, gymnastics, basketball and an equestrian show, the Special Olympics Regional Invitational Track and Field Meet, hosted by AMBUCS Conshohocken chapter and Springfield Rotary, is one of the most popular of the year-round Special Olympics events, drawing competitors and spectators from all of the surrounding counties.
“We have 20 sports throughout the year and each sport has its own tournament or competition. Special Olympics has really grown since the beginning. It used to be when we started the track meet more than 25 years ago we had two teams and 40 competitors, and this year we have 147 participants,” said Otterbein, who allowed that the camaraderie the athletes experience is generally more important to them than the competitive nature of the event.
“The social aspect is really strong and it really makes a difference in their lives.”
Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School is located at 201 E. Germantown Pike, Plymouth Meeting.
Opening ceremonies for the Special Olympics Regional Invitational Track and Field Meet are at 9:15 a.m.
For more information, visit specialolympicsmontco.org.
Members of the Wicked Fast track and field team pose with head coach and county manager Scott Otterbein during the 2017 meet at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School. Otterbein, despite the impending wet forecast, expects a record-number of competitors at Saturday’s event.
Wicked Fast team member Sean DeWees makes the long jump look easy during the 2017 meet at PW high school.