ANNAPOLIS — Megan Roland walked to a spot about eight feet from the basket and waited.
When the whistle blew, she shot the ball, which went right in.
Her next shot hit the back of the rim and rolled out.
The moment the ball fell away from the basket, the enthusiastic voice of her father, Mike, boomed throughout the gym.
"Get the ball and do it again," he said, clapping. Megan looked over at her father, who nodded. She shot and missed again, but made two more before her 30-second competition was up.
This was not an ordinary competition. It was Special.
Megan Roland was one of 15 developmentally disabled CarrollCounty athletes who competed in Saturday's Maryland Special Olympicsbasketball skills tournament at the Naval Academy.
The county participants came from the Carroll County Education Center and the Therapeutic Recreation Council.
Mike Roland helped with the delegation,but when Megan, 14, began to shoot, he reacted just like any other proud parent.
"It's a big ball in your stomach," he said. "Your heart is in your throat. It brings a tear to your eye. It's like any other parent and child, but more so."
Megan is a shy girl who didn't talk much on this day, but her face did most of her speaking. Whenever she found success or was enjoying herself, she wore a huge grin on her face.
"She's so happy, she doesn't know what to do," said her father.
At the Special Olympics, the contestants enjoy success. But, more often than not, they find joy simply in completing the task.
Price Hallman is a good example. The 19-year-old from Carroll County Education Center said he felt the dribbling competition was his best. But when the shooting test came, he sank 13 of 19, causing loud roars of applause each time a shot went in.
And the smile on his face lighted the gymnasium on this rainy morning.
"I was ready," he said with a big grin. "I think I (did well)." Overall, he finished third.
Marsha Barger, area director of Carroll County Special Olympics, said the 15 who came to the event trained for about two months toready themselves.
Barger said, however, that success was not the bottom line for these people.
"They like sports," she said. "They just want to show what they
Carolyn Gately, 22, agreedwith Barger. Gately, who won a gold medal in the skills competition last year, said she comes for the fun.
"I like the sport," said Gately, who turned in a second-place finish. "I just (want ) to play."
Those helping with the event made sure the participants got plentyof positive reinforcement. Whenever a person made a basket, dribbledcorrectly or caught a rebound, the cheering began.
Mike Roland was one of those who cheered the loudest. He said he enjoys this more than when he used to coach in the St. John intramural league.
Roland said there is little difference between the coaching he
does with the Special Olympics kids and that he did before.
He said in both places, he taught sports skills; he just teaches it a bit slower here. But that doesn't bother him at all.
"This is better," he said."It feels better. I feel better doing it."
One look at his face while watching his daughter shows that.
And, by the way, Megan Roland came away with a first-place finish. So, it was truly special.
Ed Center: Greg Allen (4th); Brian Burroughs (5th); Ray Clark (5th); Jennifer DeBoy (2nd); Jennifer Doyle (3rd); Price Hallman (3rd); Jeff Hay (1st); Bill Moser (3rd); Marcus Taylor (5th).
Rec Council: Adam Dunn (4th); Carolyn Gately (2nd); Bruce Martz (2nd); David Peak (3rd); Bryan Peeling (5th); Megan Roland (1st).