Nearly 80 students from seven local school districts came together once again to have fun as the Scioto County Special Olympics Track and Field Day returned on May 11 at the West Portsmouth high school football stadium.
The annual event has not been held since 2019 because of COVID restrictions, and everyone was excited to get back outside on the green and in the sunshine. Middle school and high school students and teachers participated from the Vern Riffe School in Portsmouth and the developmental disabilities classrooms at Minford, South Webster, Wheelersburg, Clay, Valley, and West.
“We are excited to back out here after COVID and do this again. We have all worked together to make this all about the kids to make sure they have fun,” said Southern Ohio Special Olympics Coordinator and Head Coach Melissa Hall.
The morning began at 10 a.m. with the Scioto County Special Olympics Parade along the track, followed by the athletic events. The event's focus was fun and activity and not about competition. The activities were divided into groups of students with similar performance capabilities to help keep things fun and fair for everyone.
“We want to incorporate all of the kids. The runners, walkers, and the ones that have wheelchairs and other devices. We have adapted the races for each of them,” said Vern Riffe School Lead Teacher Dana Jones.
Three field events were planned: the javelin throw, long jump, and softball throw, and were substituted for soft equipment to adapt to the needs and safety of the athletes. Vern Riffe School took the field first; then Minford, South Webster, and Wheelersburg played together in the next set, and Clay, Valley, and West in the final set. Athletes also competed in the 50-, 100-, and 200- meter dash, 25-meter person-assisted walk, and 25-meter independent walk. Families, friends, and teachers cheered for each and every student from the stands of the football stadium.
“The students are excited. They’ve been talking about this for weeks, and we’ve been getting them ready in our P.E. class,” Jones said.
Runner Zach Kigar, 17, of Sciotoville, helped set up the track before the race and said he was excited to race with one of his best friends, Brody Wyatt, in the 50-meter dash. He said it didn’t matter who won. He just wanted to have fun.
“I love being with my friends. There are so many people here. It’s a lot of fun,” he said.
Mike Glockner of Glockner Auto Sales generously donated medals, and he participated in presenting those medals to the first through fifth place winners after each race. Participation ribbons were awarded to all athletes who joined in the field events.
Vern Riffe School Physical Therapist Assistant Trish Schmidt was the eye-in-the-sky, announcing events and helping direct the activities from the press box above the field.
“It’s a lot of fun to be able to bring everybody together. This is really the only time in the year that we can bring everybody into one location. This track is absolutely perfect and very conducive to what we needed. It makes our kids feel like it’s the big time,” Schmidt said.
After the event, students continued their fun with a picnic at the nearby Earl Thomas Conley Park in West Portsmouth.
For more information, visit online at www.sciotodd.org.