By Brian Early email@example.com May 05. 2016
Fioana McGarrell of the Marshwood Hawks participates in the running long jump at the York County Special Olympics held in Kittery on a wet Thursday. Deb Cram/Seacoastonline
KITTERY, Maine — Despite the cold temperatures, wind and occasional sideways rain, participants and spectators were all smiles at the Special Olympics Spring Games Thursday.
Nearly 300 hundred participants and hundreds of spectators descended on Shapleigh Field outside of Shapleigh School to participate in the annual York County Special Olympics event. This was the 26th year the games have been held at Shapleigh.
Mary Mayhew, commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, helped kick-off the opening ceremonies that started with Shapleigh School Band playing the national anthem while the color guard, made up of members of the Eliot Police Department, held the national and state flags.
After Shapleigh School Principal Anne Ellis said, “Let the games begin,” the 277 participants began competing in the 400-meter run, softball throw, standing long jump, running long jump and shot put, along with other numerous events throughout the day.
“Bugler’s Dream,” the musical composition most people associate with the Olympics, could be heard playing throughout the morning as all participants were awarded for their efforts soon after they competed in their category.
Dennis Dean, director of the York County Special Olympics, said the games are used as a divisioning event for the Maine Special Olympics Summer Games that will take place in Orono later this year. Results from Thursday’s games will allow athletes to be grouped with other of similar abilities, so that “everyone has an equal chance of winning a gold medal” in the Summer Games, Dean said.
Because the local games are a divisioning event, they must be held in early spring when the weather is a wild card.
“Last year were in shorts and T-shirts complaining how sunburned we were,” said Larissa Simonds, the track coach at Traip Academy. She and members of the track team helped officiate many of the events.
Maeve Dow, a senior at Traip, officiated the shot put, the event she competes in at high school track meets.
“You can see how much the participants enjoy it,” she said of the Spring Games. While her hands were a little chilly, “I’m glad to help out the event that makes so many people happy.”
The event has 28 participating teams and programs from throughout York County and numerous volunteers and sponsors to make the day possible.