By Mary O’KEEFE
Special Olympics athletes from the tri-valley area came to Crescenta Valley High School on Saturday competing in track and field events and hoping to qualify for the Summer Games.
Six delegations comprising 155 athletes competed in events including the 100-meter race, relays, softball throw, disc throw and long jump.
The morning began with CV High School students Kean Bracht leading the Pledge of Allegiance followed by Paul Kim singing the national anthem.
Adult and student volunteers made certain everything ran smoothly, from assisting athletes to their events to the timing of the races.
“The delegations from outside [Crescenta Valley] were blown away,” said Kim Villa, Special Olympics World Games director of community engagement and organizer of the CVHS event. “They were thrilled with the CV [high school] students.”
Several CVHS students volunteered at the event in several capacities including being a “buddy” to the athletes making certain they made it to the correct event, cheered them on as they competed, got them back to athletes’ waiting area and prepared them for the next event.
Villa said this year the event had bleachers full of cheering fans as well.
“CV was great, it is always great, but this year we had more fans [in the stands],” she said.
First time competitor 8-year-old Lucas Mesa was a little hesitant at first but soon became a strong competitor in races and the softball throw. As he crossed the finish line from one of his races, he had two CVHS girls waiting for him. He didn’t hesitate to take a victory photo and even give them a little kiss.
Beth Brodie competed in the wheelchair races, the 30 meters and 25 meters.
“This is fun,” Brodie said. “I do it every year and every year I get better.”
Brodie not only enjoyed the competition but the winner’s podium as well. She made certain to get photos with Los Angeles County firefighters.
Each athlete was awarded participation and/or placement medals and ribbons. Their names were announced at the podium and then the medals were placed around their necks by officers from California Highway Patrol, Glendale Police Dept., Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept./CV Station and LACoFD.
“They [police and fire] love this event,” Villa added.
Qualifying athletes will continue on to the Special Olympics Summer Games held at California State University, Long Beach on June 13-14.
Then on July 25 to August 2, the Special Olympics World Games will be held in Los Angeles.
The City of Glendale will be one of 50 cities to host the events. There are about 7,000 athletes from 177 countries who will compete in the World Games. When the games have been held in other countries, the athletes are usually offered home-stays, but that concept has been adjusted for Southern California.
Villa added it would be difficult to vet all the homes and, due to the smaller size of most California homes, the home-stay program had to be altered. For the first time, athletes will be staying in hotels and dorms. Glendale will hold events welcoming the athletes and give a special welcome to one of the delegations from outside the U.S. for the three days preceding the Games.
From now until the Summer Games there will be a Special Olympics booth at Sunday’s Harvest Market in Montrose with information on the events and opportunities to support the program and athletes.