It wasn't the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, but for the 400 athletes who participated at Strider Field Wednesday it felt like an all-world achievement.
"Today is the 38th year they have done Special Olympics in Chautauqua County, and this is a chance for all of the kids in southern Chautauqua County to come be an athlete for a day. A lot of kids look forward to this, it is their big event for the year," said Bob Goold, coordinator of the event.
Aside from the students competing in the Special Olympics, there were about 120 student volunteers from Jamestown, Panama, Frewsburg, Falconer, Southwestern and Chautauqua Lake high schools.
Athletes march around Strider Field
"The student volunteers run the games. We also have a group of men from the CAML club, who have been with us for 25 years, and they have run the field events for years," Goold said.
Student athletes were able to compete in track events, a standing long jump, a running long jump and a softball pitch. Each student was allowed to compete in three events of their choice.
"The kids really look forward to being here. We try to make it fun for them, but also competitive," Goold said.
Students participated in a variety of events, including track events, a softball throw, long jump and distance jump.
P-J photo by Liz Skoczylas
Students from kindergarten through 21 years of age are able to compete in the Special Olympics, as long as they are still in a school setting, according to Goold.
The event began with a parade around the track that everyone walked in, and a torch that was carried in by police officers from the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Department, Jamestown Police Department and New York State Police. This was followed by an award ceremony in recognition of the most improved athletes from every school. There ceremony was in memory of Katie Campbell, who was a special education teacher that was killed by a drunk driver.
Ms. Campbell's mother, Jane Campbell, handed out medals to the improved athletes. Receiving medals were: Michael Neid, Logan Fish, Kaila Cartner, Ryan Silsby, Dan Tompkins, Austin Billick, Sabrina Riley, Jessica Brown, Jurnie Ratzlaff, Elise Firster, Tessa Ecker, Angel Vazquez-Torres, Taylor Guynn, Brandon Kohlepp, Lorenzo Sosa-Mahaffey, Brianna Cappadonia, Shania Simmes, Tony DePonceau, Haley Shagla, Abby Adam, Bethany DeShantz and Aiden Melquist.
Aside from the parade, ceremony and events, students also had lunch provided to them by the Elks Club.
"It's really a community event. It's just a joyful day for everybody that gets here. It has been going on for years, and it's just a great day for everybody," Goold said.