Athletes shine at games
Wilson Daily Times - 4/19/2019
April 19-- Apr. 19--Breanna Sutton obliterated the competition.
The 13-year-old Speight Middle School student stretched her legs and ran right by her closest challenger, classmate Jallen McConnie.
Competing in the 100-yard dash, the runners were part of the Wilson County Special Olympics Spring Games at Hunt High School.
"I feel like I'm free, and I can run as fast as I want to," Sutton said. "It feels like girls can do anything better than boys."
Later in the day, Breanna was the anchor in the 4x100 relay race for the school and, as expected, easily blasted past all those in the field.
"It brings back memories," said Lydia Crandall, Breanna's teacher, who ran the 100, the 200, relays, long jump and high jump at Elm City High School back in the mid-1970s.
Breanna and Jallen were among about 130 athletes competing Thursday in traditional track and field events as well as about 105 children competing in a special youth athletes area for children too young to compete in Special Olympics.
Thursday's event began with the ceremonial walk around the track by groups carrying banners from all of the participating schools' athletes.
Jacobe Johnson, 17, from Hunt High School, gave big, broad waves to the spectators as he and others passed the grandstand.
"He's the star," said Jennifer Parson, a teaching assistant at the school. "Jacobe is everybody's friend."
"It's one of the most rewarding parts of my job," said Dale Edmonds, Wilson parks superintendent. "This is my 13th year. Parks and rec helps facilitate with Wilson County Schools to put on this event for the student athletes.
About half of the Wilson Parks and Recreation staff came out to help with the event.
Edmonds gave a helping hand as Sean Rothrock, a senior at Hunt High School, brought in the torch to light the flame at the event.
"I just love being out here and connecting with these kids and giving them an opportunity to shine," said Rhyan Breen, a volunteer and a member of the Wilson County Board of Education. "It's a beautiful day to do it. It is always amazing to see kids give their very best effort, and it's especially amazing to watch these kids do it in this venue.
"I see city staff. I see folks from the county. I see folks from the local businesses -- BB&T, Bridgestone -- everybody is out here. It is amazing that Wilson is willing to come together for the kids of Wilson."
Wilson County Board of Education member Debora Powell said the event is "inspirational."
"They are so excited. You feel it in the air, the power of their presence being here," Powell said. "I just enjoy it because I feed off the kids. To see them win their awards and their medals and see them smile and the joy. I taught EC for 30 years, and this is special to me. Every year I brought my kids to Special Olympics. It's not just touching the students, but it is touching the people around them -- the teachers, the parents. It gives them the chance to be out here and have fun, to be refreshed and just see other people.
Sue Brewer was out helping with the football throw.
"It's just awesome to see them and to see them be happy," Brewer said. "Some of them are really very excited to come out."
Michael Stanford, executive director for The Arc of Wilson County, said the spring games give these Special Olympians a chance to show their peers what they can do.
"You know, a lot of their life is being told what they can't do or what they are not able to do, but if you give these kids a chance, they have just as much ability as anybody else has to do whatever they can," Stanford said.
Theresa Mathis, adviser of the Wilson Youth Council, which has 100 members, said about 50 of them came out to volunteer Thursday.
"They are running the young athletes area, for the children who are too young to compete in the competitive events for the young kids to practice their skills," Mathis said.
The kids spent 10 minutes at each of 20 activity stations where they played soccer, baseball, hockey, practice throwing, jumping and other activities.
Dennis Lamm, 46, of Wilson, is a long-time competitor.
"He's been in them all his life just about," said Linda Whitley, Lamm's mother. "He's very active in athletics. He loves it."
Lamm said he enjoys competing in races with his wheelchair.
"I like to see friends and be the winner," Lamm said. "I like to go real fast."
Henry Mercer, Wilson Board of Education member, was moved by the efforts of all the athletes.
"If anybody can't find love and compassion for this kids, then it is beyond my understanding," Mercer said.
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