Benji Bradley of North Pontotoc leads the pack in the 100 meter race at the Pontotoc Special Olympics Thursday.
By Todd Vinyard
PONTOTOC – There were as many smiles as winning ribbons Thursday at the first Pontotoc County Special Olympics.
The Pontotoc Civitans sponsored the event that drew 100 athletes from all three county schools to the Pontotoc High School track. Events are patterned after the Olympics.
While most participants were hoping to be among the top three finishers in nine events and to move on to the state Special Olympics in Biloxi next week, getting the opportunity to compete was just as important.
“This is the first time many of the kids will ever wear their school colors, and you can just see them swell up with pride,” Pontotoc Civitan George Stegall said. “Everybody who crosses the finish line gets a ribbon, and they are all winners.”
Special Olympics is an international program that promotes physical fitness and athletic competition for developmentally disabled children and adults. The Pontotoc event was sponsored by the international Special Olympics and received help from the state organization in Jackson.
“We have several student volunteers from the community who have come out to help put this event on,” North Pontotoc Special Education teacher Patricia Holcomb said. “Everything is being done so these children will have a good time.”
Judging by the reaction of the participants in events ranging from the softball throw to the 100-meter dash, that mission was accomplished.
“It is fun,” said a smiling Corey Gillespie, 13, of South Pontotoc.
Another South Pontotoc athlete, Anthony Wilson, took home two medals in the wheel chair competition.
“We kind of had to force Anthony to become involved at first,” said South Pontotoc coach Susan Parrish. “But now that he has won, he had a huge smile. We are probably never going to hear the end of it now.”
Organizers also hope this isn’t the end but merely the beginning of the Special Olympics in Pontotoc County.
“We are going to sit down and take a look at everything and see how we can do it better in the future, and get ready for next year,” Stegall said.