Young athletes gather  for Special Olympics

First- grader Keegon Nye nears the finish line in the 50 meter run/walk event of the Special Olympics at South Albany High School. (Jesse Skoubo/Democrat-Herald)

Some of the athletes competing Tuesday at South Albany High School’s track weren’t exactly sure where they were supposed to throw or how they were supposed to jump.

It didn’t matter. In Rosie Zupan’s book, they were all winners already.

Zupan, a physical education teacher at Waverly Elementary School, helped coordinate this year’s annual Special Olympics elementary track meet, which attracted young competitors from Albany, Harrisburg, Newport and Toledo.

This year’s meet welcomed several special guests: Mark Collinger, a Special Olympics field director from the organization’s Portland office, and about a dozen students from Albany Options School, who volunteered to help lead each event.

Four track and two field events comprised this year’s meet: the broad jump, the softball throw, and the 400-, 100-, 50- and 25-meter run/walk/roll.

With clear skies and temperatures in the 60s, it was a beautiful day for a track meet, in contrast to last year, when it rained, Zupan said. Part of the benefit for special-needs children is just the opportunity to play outside, she said.

The other benefits: “They’re an athlete, and they get a ribbon, and they get their picture taken, and everyone’s clapping for them,” she said. “To be able to do that, and participate in an event, is phenomenal.”

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