Special Olympics athletes gather for Tri-Cities Track Meet

Tri-City HeraldMay 9, 2012 

— Logan Cherry of Richland bounced in the grass Tuesday next to the track at Southridge High School, eager to start his 100-meter dash.

"Not yet," his grandmother Kip McDole said while patting his arm gently.

Logan's race still was about 20 minutes away, but the 14-year-old Chief Joseph Middle School student with Down syndrome beamed as he told the Herald what he loves to do most.

"Run!" he said.

Logan was one of about 300 Special Olympics athletes who gathered Tuesday for the annual Tri-Cities Track Meet.

The event included Special Olympics athletes starting at age 8 and on up to gray-haired, lifelong participants.

They joined in events that included shotput, softball throws, assisted walks, wheelchair races, long jump, and assorted dashes and walks.

Jill Ives, sports and training manager for Special Olympics Washington, said the annual event is one of the only times that Mid-Columbia schools come together for a Special Olympics competition.

Students from about 30 schools participated -- many for the first time, Ives said.

Students must be 8 to compete, but the event also included a handful of children ages 2 to 7 in the Young Athletes program.

There also was space indoors for several students in the Motor Activities Training Program, which gives students with disabilities who lack the skills to compete a chance to get some physical activity and be part of a group in a noncompetitive setting.

Students who had graduated from the Young Athletes and Motor Activities Training Program into Special Olympics competitions participated in track and field events against other students of the same age group, sex and ability level.

Athletes, parents, teachers and caregivers clustered in the shade of colorful tents marked with the names of their schools or teams, or in different places around the track where events were taking place.

Between events, they munched on sandwiches or pizza and joked or played with friends.

Logan said another part he likes about Special Olympics is, "Just being here."

McDole said her grandson and the other students in Special Olympics get pumped with excitement when their teacher tells them the track meet day is coming.

They love getting their team T-shirts and knowing they'll get to see friends from other area schools, she said.

"And to see the teachers from the schools they've been to," McDole added.

Participants start in elementary school and many continue through middle school, like Logan, or into high school, like Kara Bishop, 19, of Pasco, who attends Chiawana High School.

Bishop was signed up for the female 50-meter walk, 100-meter walk and softball throw Tuesday.

It's the latter she loves most.

"I get to throw it," Bishop said. "It's fun."

But she also loves cheering on her friends because she wants everyone to have fun.

Other participants on the field at Southridge were adults such as Brian Bornhorst of Kennewick, who has been competing for years as part of the Tri-Cities Suns Special Olympics team, and took first place in his shotput event earlier in the day.

"I've done it a long time," he said.

-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; mdupler@tricityherald.com

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