UNITED: Troy University hosts state Special Olympics
Published 4:00 am Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Elite athletes train all year and put everything into their dreams of crossing the finish line and receiving a gold medal. For the athletes who participated in Special Olympics Alabama hosted by Troy University this week, that passion and drive was no different.
Upwards of 1,000 athletes participated in events ranging from bocce in the Sartain Hall gym to gymnastics and swimming at the Troy Parks and Rec, and Pike County athlete Joey Welch won first in his flight of the 100-meter race for the Track and Field events Saturday, and said he was able to run really fast during his race, which had helped him win the gold medal.
“It was a lot of fun,” Welch said of crossing the finish line ahead of all the other athletes in his flight.
And, Welch said he liked the feeling of crossing the finish line first and standing on the podium to receive his gold medal. Welch said all his teammates and coaches were there when he got his medal, and it made him feel good to have them there to cheer him on as they placed the medal around his neck. Welch also won a gold medal for the standing long jump.
John Taylor, one of the volunteer coaches for Pike County, said the state games were a great experience for all the athletes.
“I’m involved and my wife is involved because our son is special needs,” he said. “So it’s something that is really near and dear to our hearts.”
Taylor said watching athletes give their all during the events warmed his heart and made him not only proud of his athletes but proud to be associated with the program.
“It’s just an awesome feeling, just to be able to be there with them, to see the smile on their faces (and see) them competing,” he said. “It’s worth it. Every minute is worth it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Taylor said in the four years he had been involved with the program it had grown tremendously and he hoped to continue to see the program grow and bring in more athletes.
“It’s something that Troy has hosted for the last nine years, so in our community it has grown a lot,” Taylor said. “We hope to see it continue to grow. I hope that Troy continues to host the games. It’s great to see all these faces, all these athletes and them competing and them just having that special day in the sun for themselves.”
Marissa Brunjie, another Pike County athlete, won bronze in the 100-meter race and won a silver medal for her long jump. But, Brunjie said getting to “Hangout with Muhammad,” was her favorite. “He does whatever he wants,” Brunjie said.
David Spivey has been participating in the Special Olympics in Troy for years and said it was always fun to come out and be with other athletes. Spivey did the long jump and the 50-meter race Saturday, but said he’d done the 100-meter race last year. Spivey won the gold medal for the 50-meter race.
“I like getting to hangout with my friends,” Spivey said.
And, Spivey said he hoped to be able to come back next year and hopefully play golf.
Herbert Reeves, dean of student services said the overall event had gone great, and the university was already looking forward to next year’s events.
“There was a lot of excellent competition from the athletes,” Reeves said. “The coaches and chaperones did a wonderful job. A huge ‘thank you’ goes out to all the volunteers, they made this possible. It was a great weekend. We are looking forward to next year.”