JOPLIN, Mo. —
More than 600 athletes braved a chilly and windy day Friday at Missouri Southern State University’s Fred Hughes Stadium to compete in the Special Olympics Southwest Area Spring Games.
Kelsi Valdez, 10, goes to school in Nevada. She had just received a gold medal for taking first place in her age group in the 100-meter run. She was preparing to compete next in the running long jump.
Kelsi said she had trained for the competition.
“I like running,” she said, adding that she was having fun.
Levi Logsdon, 12, from Carl Junction, demonstrated a practiced technique in the running long jump. But on one try, he fell forward, resulting in a bruised arm. He got up and took another turn.
He said he felt good about his jumps. He was asked if he practiced.
“Yeah, sometimes,” Levi said. He also was scheduled to compete in a running event and the shot put. He said he enjoyed being a part of the competition. “I’m excited,” he said.
Billy Sherrick and some friends were celebrating his successful performance in the softball throw. Sherrick, 16, is a Joplin High School student.
“I tossed them for a long time,” he said of his practice for the event.
He said he liked being among all the athletes. “It’s fun,” he said.
Sherrick said he also was entered to compete in the 50-meter run and the long jump. He was asked how he thought he might do.
“I don’t know, first place,” he said with confidence.
Maksim Barry, 14, from Diamond, said he was entered in a relay race, the 200-meter run, the long jump and the shot put. He said he was having a good time.
Organizer Robin Anderson said the spring games is the biggest athletic event in Southwest Missouri, in terms of competitors. The entries were from 37 schools and organizations.
“We’d love better weather,” she said, adding that everyone involved in the event always has a fun, exciting time.
A somber moment came during the opening ceremony, when Anderson announced that Don, Patty and Tripp Miller had been designated the Special Olympics Outstanding Family. Tripp Miller began competing in Special Olympics about 40 years ago, with his parents always around to cheer him on. Tripp Miller died in the Joplin tornado on May 22. His parents continue to be strong supporters of Special Olympics.
“Tripp was one of those who didn’t survive the tornado, but his smile and goodness did,” Anderson said, occasionally choking up. “We will forever remember this truly kind, good gentleman.”
Also recognized by Anderson were Jenny Dayton, Outstanding Athlete of the Year, and Charlie Aiken, Outstanding Volunteer.
THE STATE SPECIAL OLYMPICS competition will be at the Summer Games set for May 29-June 1 at the University of Missouri in Columbia.