Local students ran, jumped and threw in the Special Olympics on Friday.
The event was held at Anson High School’s football stadium. Athletes ranged in age from 8-18 in competitive events and from 4-7 in non-competitive ones. They came from local schools, as well as Anson Children’s Center.
Each of the roughly 70 athletes were accompanied by an older “buddy” who was assigned to keep them company and escort them to events. Originally postponed from Wednesday due to bad weather, participants may have wished the skies were a little overcast as the heat was already building Friday morning.
“The mission of Special Olympics is to give athletes with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to compete in competitive sports,” coordinator Sylvia Tillman said. The games are seasonal based on regional availability. On Friday, students participated in the Spring games which offer track and field events like the 25-meter dash, the softball throw and the running long jump.
Certified coaches oversee the events and afterward everyone ate lunch before departing at noon.
Morgan Sturdivant, a student at Lilesville Elementary School, participated in the 25-meter dash, where she took third place, and the standing long jump event. She said she was enjoying the event and drinking plenty of water. She was accompanied by her buddy Mallory Gathings, a junior at AHS.
The late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister to President John F. Kennedy and mother of Maria Shriver, founded the games. According to the Special Olympics webpage, she was inspired in part to do so by her sister Rosemary, who had an intellectual disability. The two enjoyed playing sports together as children.
She first invited children to a camp to participate in sports in 1962 and the first Special Olympics were held in 1968. Now, the games draw more than 3.7 million participants in 170 countries.