By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
PONTOTOC – North Pontotoc high school senior Brady White had a unique plan to prepare for Monday’s Area 11 Special Olympics.
Bowling was not an event in the annual competition, which was held at the Pontotoc City Track and Field. But the exercise helped Brady prepare for his two events – the tennis ball throw and 100-meter walk.
For one, it allowed him to practice his follow through, he said. Also, he got to walk and run down the lane before heaving his bowling ball.
Despite the practice, Brady’s favorite element of Monday’s event wasn’t the competition.
“You get to hang out with other people,” he said.
About 300 athletes ranging from age 3 to 35 competed in the 15 events, including runs and relays, walks, a wheelchair race, softball and tennis ball throws, long jumps, basketball and croquet.
Many were competing for the opportunity to represent Area 11 at the state games, to be held in May in Biloxi. About 100 athletes will go, with special consideration given those who took first place in their events.
Area 11 includes Pontotoc, Lee, Union, Prentiss, Alcorn, Tishomingo, Itawamba and Tippah counties.
“It gives them an opportunity to wear school colors and display school pride like other athletes,” Area 11 Director Patricia Holcomb said.
Tupelo High School sophomore Ailyah Price said she practiced for the competition nearly every day by running and walking, and Shannon High School’s Alexis Doss prepared for her running and jumping events at her school’s football field.
“This is wonderful for the kids,” said Karen Nissen, a special education teacher at Saltillo Elementary. Her son Logan is a freshman at Saltillo High School and one of the competitors.
The event also brought joy to the coaches, volunteers and spectators.
“The pride of watching them compete is unmeasurable,” said Tasha Hutcheson, a special education assistant at Jumpertown School.