BELGRADE – The energy was contagious at Belgrade High School as athletes from all over the area gathered to compete in the Special Olympics.
“It’s just like the experience and to see the personalities and the reactions of the people is just amazing,” said volunteer Charlie Rasnick, who is also a senior on the Mahattan track team.
Fans swarmed the Events Center for a packed opening ceremony. And once the athletes made it outside the competition began with races, relays and even bocce ball.
One of those competitors is Alison Bowers, who has been a Special Olympian for over 20 years. She won the 100-meter race with a time of 16.07 seconds and received a ribbon. And while the standing on the podium was a highlight of the day, she was really excited to spend it with her teammates.
“Friends and the sunshine,” Bowers smiled when asked about her favorite part of the event. “It’s just happy. It’s nice weather for once and there is no snow on the ground.”
The weather stood out, but one aspect really shined: the people. Students from Manhattan Christian cheered on their fellow classmate Molly Hubner as she competed in the 50-meter dash.
And Molly gave them a show, sprinting across the finish line in first place. The roar of the crowd is what really makes this special for the competitors.
“They say, ‘Yay go Dylan, go Dylan! Yeah, dreams do come true,” said Dylan Kelly, who earned a second place ribbon in track early in the day.
These are some of the best athletes in Montana, just take it from Jon Turner who ran a 5:53 mile. And with each practice, each race, and each smile, these athletes improve.
“I love seeing the progression and attitudes of the athletes. Just seeing how they come in with such great motivational, positive spirits and they bring those all the way through the season,” said Special Olympics coach Lucas Burg.
But the season is not over, in fact, you could call this event today just a tune up because in just a few short weeks, the big competition starts.
“Today to them, well some of them still think it’s practice because we have state coming up here pretty soon,” Burg laughed. “But a lot of athletes this is their moment to shine. There’s time to get out there and show everybody what they’ve been working on and how hard they’ve been working.”
The Special Olympics State Summer Games are being held in Great Falls this year from May 15-18.