It was a beautiful, warm, sunny spring day in Blanding last Saturday. Just perfect for a track meet. This is an annual event for Special Olympic athletes of Southeastern Utah. However, this is the first time the event has been held in Blanding. Other venues have been Grand County High and Green River High.
A large contingency of athletes came from all around San Juan County – members of the Blue Eagles group. Approximately half of this team comes from the Navajo Reservation. It is not an easy task to pull this team together for events, let alone for practices.
Also attending was a smaller team from Green River – the Green River Rapids. These folks came the day before and spent the night in Blanding.
Both teams were on the field stretching, visiting and anticipating an exciting day of events more than an hour before start time. Several new athletes experienced their first Special Olympics event. By the grins on their faces, it will not be their last. They joined veteran athletes who have been participating in local and state, even international events, for years.
The morning included all the track events. They range from unaided dashes and walks to “assisted” events, where either coaches can encourage a participant down the track or a “device” such as a walker or motorized wheelchair can be used as an aid.
The final track event of the morning was a four by 100 meter relay. There are a lot of “unified” sport events where Special Olympics athletes are paired with friends or family members to make a mixed team. Such was the case with this relay. Several folks left Saturday excited about the prospects of such teams and putting more of them together in the future.
The afternoon saw the field events take place. These included tennis ball and softball throws, where the participants throw for distance. Several of the stronger throwers were taken out of competition in the softball throw and introduced to the more challenging “turbo” javelin.
This is new to the Special Olympics track and field this year and will be included in the upcoming state competition. The javelins were left with the Blue Eagles, who will practice over the next three weeks and be ready for stiff competition at State.
The day concluded with the awards for the field events and lots of hugs and goodbyes and “I’ll see you at State” farewells. Hours or travel still lay ahead as athletes were taken back to their homes.
The great thing about Special Olympics is, besides the joy the participants’ experience and which pervades the event affecting all who are their to aid or observe, is that everyone in the competition comes away a winner! As the day progressed you could hear the clinkity clank of participants medals as they swayed around their necks. Every athlete who participated in Saturday’s track meet qualified for the State competition.
A big thanks goes out to all the folks – especially the teenagers from both Green River and Blanding – who came to lend a hand. Of late, Blanding has shown great support for these special people in both sponsoring fun (and I hear intended to be annual) events such as the recent “Prom” as well as funds for travel and participation in the upcoming State competition.
The event was coordinated by Special Olympics Utah Activities Coordinator Rochelle Deeter, formerly of La Sal. She wants to thank all who helped in any way. The team coaches and parents spend countless hours volunteering their time to help in these successful events.
State will be held at Brigham Young University the last week of May.