Area 11 Special Olympics brings more athletes, more activities to Tupelo
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal - 3/30/2019
March 30-- Mar. 30--TUPELO -- The Area 11 Special Olympics at Tupelo High School was an opportunity for students with physical and mental challenges to compete in athletics, but also to have fun and enjoy good weather with loved ones.
Hundreds of teachers, students, family and community supporters attended the event Friday, which started with a parade led by members of the Tupelo Marching Band.
This is the third year Tupelo has hosted the Special Olympics and between 600 and 700 athletes from Alcorn, Lee, Pontotoc, Prentiss, Tippah, Tishomingo, Union and Itawamba counties competed.
The students participated in a series of relay races of different lengths. One guardian, Lynn Sewell, saw her cousin, Anthony, lagging behind in his race and ran with him along the chain link fence enclosing the field, calling words of encouragement to help him finish the race.
When he crossed the finish line, Sewell ran to congratulate him. Sewell said this is Anthony's first year competing in the games.
"It's important for their self-esteem and it's important for us, too," Sewell said. "He runs all of the time at home, he is full of energy."
Students ran relays and competed in other activities such as the long jump, basketball, bocce ball, softball, soccer and javelin throwing, which is new to the roster this year.
The special education students worked hard since last fall to prepare for the event, regularly doing athletic activities to be ready in time for competition.
Mooreville Middle School eighth-grader Seth Adair, 15, said he was excited to participate in the games, and while he has spent time training, Adair enjoys other kinds of games.
"Before the Olympics, I did a little bit of running, and sometimes I play games like Call of Duty," Adair said. "I think this event helps encourage people, that they can do it."
Lee County Schools Assistant Special Education Director Anthony Bryant said the games give these students a chance to take part in an athletic competition and participate in an event with their peers.
"It's important because it gives students with disabilities a chance to compete and feel like they are a part of something. It gives them something to look forward to, and they really enjoy it," Bryant said.
"We've had a lot of student volunteers help out with this event because they see the excitement, which helps with inclusion and helps make this event actually grow bigger and bigger each year."
Bryant said the students train for the competition whenever they can in their spare time, doing track and field, horseshoes, running and other activities. Some of the participants in the competition will advance to the state games in Biloxi in May.
The Mississippi Special Olympics was founded in 1968 and annually supports 14,723 athletes and 2,943 volunteer coaches. The state Special Olympics hosts 76 competitions every year.
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