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County holds first Special Olympics competition

Olympians from Selmer Elementary lead the parade that kicked off the 1st Annual McNairy County Special Olympics Tuesday in Selmer. Staff Photo By Andrew Alexander

The Special Olympics were held at McNairy Central High School Tuesday, and boasted more than 50 competitors in a multitude of events. This was the first time the event was held in the county.

Since its inception in 1962, The Special Olympics have been providing a venue for individuals with special needs to compete against one another in a variety of different athletics. 

It also enables those individuals the opportunity to, not only be an inspiration to those that witness the grit and sheer fortitude these individuals possess, but also an opportunity to display the normality of their own personalities, and their simple desire to be counted as equals.

In past years, competitors from McNairy County have traveled to Jackson to partake in the Special Olympics, but it was canceled this year due to weather. 

Considering the amount of training and dedication poured out by special needs students in McNairy County in preparation for this year’s Special Olympics, Meg Day felt it was imperative that the competitors be given their shot to show their stuff on the track.

  This year, Day, a special education teacher at Selmer Elementary School, Chewalla Baptist Church, and Outdoors Unlimited of Ramer have come together to put on the 1st Annual McNairy County Special Olympics in hopes of continuing the tradition, and spirit of competition, laid forth by the founder of the Special Olympics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

“I’m excited,” said Day. “I just want it to be successful and the kids to have a good time.”

Simply stated, the mission of the Special Olympics is to allow special needs adolescents the chance to set a goal for themselves and train so that they might reach that goal through competition, like any other Olympian would do.

“This is my first track meet,” said 9-year-old Selmer Elementary student, Steven Tyler. “I just want to race someone!” 

Competitors’ ages range from 8 years old to 22 years old, and the events are split up according to grade level. 

For example, an 8-year-old would compete against other elementary school aged contestants, and a 16-year-old would be placed in the high school division in an attempt to keep the playing field an even one.

Tuesday’s Special Olympics began with a parade and quickly segued to a prayer led by Derek Bodiford of Selmer, and was then followed by the National Anthem preformed by the Bobcat choir which then led to many eager competitors racing to their starting lines.

The multitude of events at this year’s Special Olympics included  the 50M, 100M, and 200M dashes, the 50M walk, the 50M wheelchair race, the running long jump, the standing long jump, the softball throw, and the 400M relay.

Conway Baggett, a 14-year-old student from Selmer Middle School competed in two events and said, “I’m not nervous at all. I want to win!”

The competitive spirit of these contestants is no different than that of Olympians like Michael Phelps and Shawn Johnson.

These kids and young adults trained hard and were allowed a chance to be Olympians themselves, and they did not disappoint. 

For results and additional coverage of the 1st Annual McNairy County Special Olympics, look in next week’s Independent Appeal.

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