Thrill of competition inspires county athletes

Eight weeks of training pays off for Special Olympians as 200 gather for spring games, chance at state contest

April 29, 2007|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,Sun Reporter

Tovah Comis simply wasn't ready to jump.

"Three, two, one ... jump!" the crowd around her shouted as she stood before a stretch of sand. She swung her arms, imitating the motions of those coaxing her, even bent her knees.

But the 12-year-old Northwest Middle School student wouldn't jump.

Two women took one of her hands in theirs, gearing up for another attempt.

"One, two, three ... jump!" they said, swinging her arms. Tovah moved forward this time, landing in the sand. Cheers erupted.

Tovah was one of more than 200 athletes registered for the spring games, which have been held in Carroll for more than 30 years, said Marsha Barger, area director for the county's Special Olympics Maryland.

Many were students from county schools, including Hampstead, Carrolltowne and Robert Moton elementaries; Century, North and South Carroll highs; and Mount Airy, New Windsor and Shiloh middle schools, among others. Adults also participated.

The athletes train for at least eight weeks, Barger said, and those who won gold medals last week are eligible to advance to Special Olympics Maryland's summer games scheduled June 8-10 at Towson University.

"This is kind of the grand finale of their training," said Barger, who worked at the Carroll Springs School as a motor development specialist and has organized the event for more than three decades.

Blue skies and sunshine smiled down on the athletes, who sported orange T-shirts designed for the day and paraded with their peers around the track at Westminster High School as part of the opening ceremony.

For many, it was a welcome experience after previous years of watching 50- and 100-meter races, softball throws, long jumps, shot puts and motorized wheelchair slaloms in the cold.

"The athletes here today are participating solely for the joy of participating," said Westminster Mayor Thomas K. Ferguson, one of several officials, along with law enforcement from various agencies, who participated in the event's opening ceremony. "It's not about winning or losing."

Still, Christy Spain, 20, who attends the district's post-secondary school, said she enjoyed the thrill of competition, "since I get about none of it in my life nowadays."

Spain had just finished weaving her way around multicolored cones in a 50-meter motorized wheelchair slalom. This year was her first time competing, she said.

"I like it," Spain said.

For many, the games are also an opportunity to catch up with friends.

"They get to come out; they get to know neat people," said Rhonda Brown, whose 10-year-old son, Capree, goes to Robert Moton Elementary. "They're so excited and everything."

Capree said he was looking forward to running in a 50-meter dash - and eating. This was the fifth-grader's third year at the games, where he won his second silver medal in running.

Capree competed in the softball throw, where he also placed second, and long jump.

Jordan Davis, 18, brought his own fan club. From start - where his father, Gary, stood with a camera - to finish, where his mother, Becky Jarboe, stood cheering with family that included step- and grandparents, the Winters Mill senior could hear people cheering his name as he forged ahead in the 25-meter walk.

At least 12 of his supporters wore maroon T-shirts that read, "Go Jordy!" and featured his picture.

At the finish line, he hesitated before the tape, which gave a couple of his fellow athletes an advantage. But Jarboe was still waiting with a kiss.

"Good job," she said, as she and the rest of Davis' family congratulated him.

Davis, who won a bronze medal, has been participating in the Special Olympics event for nearly a decade, his father said. "He knows we're all here for him."

Added grandmother Joyce Davis: "It's his day."

arin.gencer@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.