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Special Olympians celebrate sports and friendships

A Special Olympian sprints during the March 24 games at Lakeside Park. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

The runners sprinted from their starting positions on the Lakeside Park track as part of the March 24 Columbia County School District’s Special Olympics.

Two of them, however, didn’t stop even when they passed the finishing line. Their exuberance kept them running into the area where another event was set up.

That excitement was evident on the other side of the track as well as volunteers cheered as the athletes, who received colorful ribbons according to their finish.

Special Olympians took part in opening ceremonies carrying banners for their schools. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

“This experience is a highlight for them,” said Crystal Strickland, an adaptive PE teacher and one of the games’ organizers.

More than 300 athletes participated in a variety of activities such as softball throw, runs of various lengths, kick and score, long jump and target toss.

Jevon Dunn, a Lakeside High School student, beamed with his blue first place ribbon and red second place ribbon pinned to his shirt.

A Special Olympian celebrates receiving a ribbon. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

“It’s the best thing to do. I’ve been training hard with soccer kick and 50 meters,” he said.

Not only do the athletes have fun participating in the games, said Strickland, but they also enjoy having the chance to renew friendships with students from other schools. They catch up with one another at sporting events.

 The games opened with students bearing flags for each of their schools and parading onto the field. Six athletes participated in the torch lap around the field. The Lakeside High School band played prior to the start and during the ceremony.

A Special Olympian participates in the soccer kick competition. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

Lakeside Principal Rodney Tyson thanked volunteers and coordinators and told the athletes the day was all about them.

“To our Olympians, today is your day. Today is your day that we come to celebrate you and to cheer you on and most of all, we come to see you have fun today,” he said.

 In addition to the athletes, hundreds of volunteers worked to make the games a success. High school students, Augusta University nursing students and Fort Gordon soldiers were among the volunteers.

Zuri Daniel (right of Grovetown High School) prepares to pass the torch to Joey Dewey of Lakeside High School at the Columbia County Special Olympics March 24. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at charmain@augustagoodnew.com. Subscribe to the newsletter here.

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