Special Olympics bring out the best in others
There are some sights in sports that just melt your heart.
This weekend the stands at Roos Field were packed — not with passionate Eagles fans, but instead with family and friends who made the journey to Cheney to watch their loved ones compete in the Special Olympics Washington East Region Spring Games.
Instead of football players clashing in the Inferno, athletes from around the state competed in various track and field events on the red turf.
After they finished their event and congratulated their opponents, athletes immediately scoured the area, hoping to find family members, teammates and coaches to show off their medals and share their experience. Even if they didn’t come away with a new trophy for their case, many athletes still held their heads high.
I’ve had the opportunity to attend the last two Special Olympics games held at Roos. As a staff member of The Easterner, I was fortunate enough to go into the Inferno and meet some of these competitors face-to-face. I learned about their training methods and preparation before the games. Although I had a couple of assignments later in the day, I was able to swing by and snap some pictures at this year’s event.
Not all of the action was on the football field. Elsewhere, athletes competed in weight lifting and swimming. At the pool, I happened to run into a familiar face — Megan, one of my old McDonald’s co-workers was competing in some of the swimming events. She would come in Friday through Sunday to help me with breakfast dishes and clean up the lobby. Here Megan wasn’t a crewmember, but an athlete. Part of me wonders if the rest of my coworkers knew about her accomplishments.
Back at Roos Field, I found myself standing next to several volunteers and fans garbed in Cheney Blackhawks gear before the beginning of the one of the races. I watched as Lacey Latting, Eva Gustafson, Hannah Devine, Rosa Delgado and Tiffany O’Brien represented the Cheney Blackhawks Special Olympics in the women’s 400-meter walk event.
However it wasn’t just the athletes who caught my eye at the event. I saw many folks from EWU — students, as well as athletes like the women’s basketball team — volunteer at the event. Although some may have been doing it to fulfill a requirement, others were involved because they had a personal interest.
This isn’t the first time Eastern has hosted or sponsored these type of events. Back at the Polar Plunge in Liberty Lake last February, the football team helped raise $3,100 for the Special Olympics. In the past, the women’s soccer team has held 5-A-Side soccer tournaments on their field and Eastern hosted the East Region spring basketball tournament.
EWU wasn’t the only local party involved with the event. During the opening ceremonies, Cheney Mayor Tom Trulove gave a welcome address while Cheney Police Chief John Hensley carried the Special Olympics Torch into the stadium before handing it off to athlete Roger Entman, who lit the “Flame of Hope.”
I have to give props to these volunteers — not only the coaches from Cheney, but also the ones from other cities who traveled with these teams, shouted words of encouragement and congratulated the athletes on their efforts.
And why not? Even if athletics is not your thing, you have to admit that the Special Olympics are a great cause.
Just like other athletes, these competitors work hard throughout the year to get to this level.
It’s encouraging to see these athletes compete and showcase their abilities, even with the obstacles they face every day.
Al Stover can be contacted at email@example.com.