WESTMINSTER -- The weather smiled on the Carroll County Special Olympics on Wednesday at Westminster High School, and the event had its largest participation ever.
"Rain was our biggest problem last year," said volunteer Kelley Myers. "Last year we had to cancel twice."
Myers was in charge of the volunteers, or FANS -- Friends and Neighbors Support -- delegated to helping the athletes. They were known in previous Olympics as "huggers."
Myers and the Olympics had more than 300 volunteers to oversee the 140 athletes from nine Carroll schools.
"I think we've got it down to a science," said Myers, who is participating in her fifth Carroll Special Olympics.
Myers, like most of the organizing staff, is from the Bell Atlantic phone company.
"It is really well organized," said Marsha Borger, area director of the Special Olympics. "The Carroll County C & P Telephone Co. Community Relations team has been . . . running the event for the past five years and has the community resources and management to do so."
The Olympics had only two modifications to the 10 events: the addition of the motorized wheelchair and the cancellation of the 400-meter run.
"Last year we had 110 participants, this year we have 140. So obviously we have grown some," said Olympics Director Ed Fischer. "We are rather pleased. Everything has been most excellent, thanks to the volunteers. Some of them have been coming back for their third and fourth year."
The FANS were collected from the five area high schools and Western Maryland College.
"I think it's great so many people are getting involved," said Katie Bandorick, a junior at Westminster High School. "I like working with youth, and I hope to pursue a career working with special youth."
The volunteers' spirit was as cloudless as Wednesday's sky and their numbers were up from last year.
"They are real willing to help, especially working with the athletes," said Myers. "In high school you would think they just want to get out of class, but that's not the case. They really want to help."
The Special Olympics in Carroll County has been running so smoothly that it was named "Best Area Summer Event" by the Maryland Special Olympics for 1989 and 1990.
This year's Olympics featured the Westminster High band and a color guard. Commissioners Elmer C. Lippy and Donald Dell and Westminster Mayor Ben Brown were there to hand out medals and congratulate athletes.
"It gives [the athletes] a little bit of sportsmanship," said Lisa Bitzel, whose daughter Tami won the gold medal in the long jump. "It's more like the kids are family; they have been together a long time in the school system."
Of the 140 athletes at the Carroll County Olympics, only 35 track and field and seven equestrian athletes will be selected to go to the Maryland State Special Olympics in Towson in June.
"It is up to the discretion of the coaches," said Borger. "It is based on numbers and who we can take."
Aaron Marders of Millers is one of the athletes who hopes to make it to Towson. Marders won a gold and a silver medal and went two years ago to the state games.
"He wants to go back," said Patricia Marders, Aaron's mother. "It all depends, but this is one of the best days we've had in a while for the Olympics."