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Everyone gets a ribbon at the Greater Albany Public Schools annual Special Olympics Track Meet.

And that's only right, said Jadyn Whitney, 15, a sophomore at Albany Options School and one of the helpers who organized the meet, because: "Everyone's equal here."

The young athletes who competed Wednesday at South Albany High School may or may not run as fast or jump as far as others their age, but to the track meet organizers, all are winners just for doing everything they can.

"They get so excited when they throw the ball and everyone cheers for them," said Whitney, who admitted to getting teary-eyed watching the competitions. 

"It just melts my heart watching them get so excited at something they can do." 

In all, 77 students from five elementary schools — Philomath, Ocean Lake in Lincoln City, and Oak, Waverly and Timber Ridge in Albany — traveled to South on Wednesday.

They participated in the long jump; the softball throw, which is similar to shotput; and then walked, rolled or ran through four distance events. 

For the fifth consecutive year, students from Albany Options School organized and ran each event, putting out place markers for the races, raking the long jump pit and overseeing the softball toss.

Best part: Depends on whom you ask.

"The jumping," declared Deniece Bedsol, 12, of Philomath.

Watching "amazing students every year. Every year. It's so exciting," said Rosie Zupan, one of the organizers. 

Helping the community, said AOS sophomore Breanna Volkers, 16. "I love children, and I want to help. It makes me feel so good when I help."

Bringing children together from various schools for a chance to have some fun together, said AOS junior Dakota Sanders, 17. 

And, he said, "It gives us a chance to show there are people out there who care and want to have fun with them."


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