Students take part in Special Olympics

Published 5:00 am Friday, May 17, 2024

For nearly five decades the mission of Special Olympics has touched the lives of young people in Lawrence County, specifically in the form of four annual events — the most recent of which is track and field held at Chesapeake High School; it brings students from all schools in the county together to compete against one another and celebrate their successes.

Michelle Aldridge, coordinator for Special Olympics for Lawrence County and representative for the Rock Hill Local School District, said students representing Chesapeake, Collins Career Technical Center, Dawson Bryant, Fairland, Ironton, Open Door, PALS, PCS, Rock Hill, South Point, Symmes Valley, and Tri-State Developmental schools competed in the track and field event on May 8 and 9. The number of students and staff members participating is 850 — not counting parents who attended.
“Track and field is our end-of-year event,” she said. “It seems like it’s the biggest because it is outside and more families come.”
Special OIympics, according to Aldridge, is about children participating as athletes and “doing things that sometimes they just can’t do in the school setting.”
“Maybe they can’t run with the track team at their high school for some reason, but we can tailor those events so all students can participate in some way,” Aldridge said.
Students compete in two categories — traditional events and individual skills games. Aldridge said for students who are more severe or in wheelchairs, organizers can adapt the events.
“We modify, having them roll over or crawl on the mat,” she said. “Outside we have the 50-meter dash, the 100-meter dash, and softball throw to measure how far they can throw it.”
Aldridge said students participate in the standing long jump and there are preschool games for younger athletes. They also do a bowling event and walk on a balance beam.
“We do the traditional track events, but we modify the other events so they can participate — but it doesn’t look like a typical high school track meet you would attend,” she said.
In the weeks leading up to the event, all schools submit paperwork providing details on trials students complete at each school. They are then placed in heat races based on their performances. The objective is to ensure, for example, a child who runs the 50-meter in five seconds is not placed against a child who takes 20 seconds to do so. They are grouped by those results.
“You have kids from Ironton running against kids from Coal Grove based on those heats,” Aldridge said.
Each track and field event has a first-, second-, and third- place finish. Students get medals for those — gold, silver, and bronze. There is even a pedestal for them to stand on while medals are awarded.
As part of the torch run during the opening ceremonies two representatives from each school participated. They were: Chesapeake — Owen Nida, Ayden Brown, Bryson James, and Shawn Barnett; Collins — Aaron Porter and Dustin White; Dawson Bryant — Nikki Reffitt, Madi Hieneman, Wyatt Wolford, and Trace Bland; Fairland — Parker Fuller, Cameron Fransen, Savannah Napier, and Autumn Hoke; Ironton — Noah Allen, Bayleigh Wilson, Jazmine Wilson, and Jersey Yates; Open Door — Aaron Reed, Ethan Rowan, Zander Thacker, and Sophia Hoff; Rock Hill — Leigh Worley, Zoey Cooper, Isaac Blackburn, and Sarah Stevens; South Point—London Keeney, Jordan Gilbert, Bailee Malmgren, and Gavin Bocook; Symmes Valley — Taylor Stapleton, Ashley Ross, Tyler Ross, and Ryder Sowards; and Tri-State Developmental — Seth Runyon and Evan Runyon.
Aldridge, who has served on the Lawrence County Special Olympics committee for the past eight years and is in her first year in the coordinator role, said the events receive “great” support from the community.
“We have to buy very little,” she said. “People really step up for us and make sure all of our needs are met throughout the year.”
Other events during the school year include volleyball in November at Rock Hill, bowling at Spare Time in January, and basketball at Dawson Bryant in March. Track and field completed this year.

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