By Ralph Morang
May 03, 2014 2:00 AM
ELIOT, Maine — The York County Special Olympics in Kittery were rained out Thursday, but Friday at Eliot Elementary School, the games went on.
School Principal Maureen Goering got a call early Thursday about the rain-out, and knowing there was no rain date, realized her five Special Olympians would be disappointed. So, the school’s staff quickly got organized and set up an indoor arena with fields of contest, a podium and an Olympic torch ready for Friday morning in the gymnasium.
Just before the kickoff, Goering was briefing her helpers, third-grade volunteers Jason Singer, Sydney Pergerson, Hannah Haggerty, Peyton Emery, Rowan Carter, Silas Hamblett, Andrew Perry, Charlotte Daniels and A. J. Gori. They would take measurements and times for the three events: softball throw, long jump and the Eliot Dash sprint.
Classes of students filed into the gym and were immediately in the spirit, holding signs to encourage the Special Olympians like “You Know You Rock!” and “Rowan Your Osome.”
Field and fans were ready, and with the Olympic theme playing, the March of the Special Olympians began. Emily Hapgood, holding the (paper) Olympic torch, led her team around the arena: Rowan Gould, Connor Shepard, Ashland Ketcham, and Sarah Fasel.
Everyone recited the Special Olympic Pledge: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” And then Principal Goering announced, “Let the games begin!”
At the softball throw field, Connor Shepard threw a distance of 265 cm, Ashland Ketcham threw 219 cm and Rowan Gould’s distance announcement was lost in the noise.
At the long jump pit, Emily Hapgood achieved 14 inches and Sarah Fasel jumped 42 inches as softballs rolled into the pit. Ashland and Connor helped Rowan with her jump.
After everyone had a chance at the softball throw and long jump, it was time for the Eliot Dash. As spectators cleared the track, runners took their places.
“Ready, set, go!” and they were off. Rowan ran with assistants and got some big cheers. “That’s what we do, we help each other,” said school reading specialist Joanne Hoerth.
In just 30 seconds, the race was over and parents and teachers rushed up to take photos and offer congratulations.
Olympians mounted the red-, white- and blue-festooned podium, and Goering awarded medals to all. Rowan wrapped her arms around her principal’s neck in joy.
As students returned to their classrooms, Emily’s parents, James Beal and Adrianne Hapgood, said, “Emily has been looking forward to this all week.” It’s her first year. They said she got up early Thursday for the Special Olympics and was very disappointed it was raining.
Connor’s parents, Eric and Heather Shepard, had Connor’s four siblings with them. “He was excited that he would see his fiends from the other schools” at the Thursday event. Of the Eliot Olympics, Connor’s father said, “We are very grateful. We are beyond words to see the appreciation for the kids.”
If the games had been held Thursday, around 400 athletes would have participated. Perhaps none would have been happier than Eliot’s five athletes were on Friday.
Principal Goering wrapped up the morning saying, “We are a team. We do whatever our kids need.”