'Special' athletes go for the gold in games at Westminster High

April 28, 1994|By John Harris III | John Harris III,Contributing Writer

The competition at the Carroll County Special Olympics yesterday was as fierce as that of any high school or college track meet.

At the Westminster High School stadium, there were hugs, smiles and people of all ages enjoying the fun.

With the help of more than 200 volunteers, about 150 athletes -- including 22 adults -- participated in 50- and 100-meter --es, a 200-meter run, softball throw, shot put and standing long jump.

Wheelchair athletes competed in 25-meter and 30-meter slalom races.

"It's just a wonderful event," said John Nizer, Special Olympics coordinator for the Carroll County Community Involvement team. "It's good to see the athletes trying their hardest and having fun. It kind of gives you a perspective on what [life] is all about."

With the help of the volunteers, Mr. Nizer and co-directors Marsha Barger and Ed Fischer managed to keep the events and award ceremonies running smoothly and the athletes entertained.

When they were not competing, athletes tossed a flying disc or a football, booted a soccer ball, romped around the pole vault pit or took healthy swings at a batting tee.

"I think this gets better year after year," Ms. Barger said. "The volunteers do a great job of running things, and the athletes always have a good time. A lot of parents came up to me afterward and told me how well everything went."

Because of yesterday's warm weather, the Westminster Fire Department set up a first-aid booth in the infield.

The Westminster Optimists supplied pizza and snacks.

Other Westminster area businesses provided sponsorship and volunteers.

State Sen. Larry E. Haines and County Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy came early in the day to watch some of the events.

Athletes from Western Maryland College and county high schools volunteered as FANS (Friends And Neighbors), formerly known as huggers.

Judging from the performance of 11-year-old Brian Haifley, one might think that his volunteer doubled as a trainer.

Courtney Woodyard, a sophomore track and field athlete at Francis Scott Key High School, stayed by Brian's side for most of the day. The Robert Moton Elementary School fifth-grader earned gold medals in the long jump, softball throw and 200-meter run.

Like a doting father, Courtney, smiled proudly when asked if Brian had won his 200-meter race. Brian fell behind during the first 100 to 150 meters, but managed to catch up and beat his opponent, 10-year-old R. J. May of New Windsor, by one-tenth of a second.

Asked about the secret to his final kick down the straightaway, Brian said, "I just started running faster."

Courtney, 15, said being a volunteer "is a lot of fun. It makes community service fun. This is something I'd definitely like to continue doing."

C. R. Staub, a 29-year-old athlete, summed up his feelings about the games at the end of a full day of competition.

"It's really nice that the athletes get a chance to run and win medals. It shows that the community really cares about us," he said.

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