By Meaghan O’Neal
The Laker/Lutz News Correspondent
More than 500 athletes representing public schools in East and Central Pasco competed at Wesley Chapel High for the county’s Special Olympics Summer Games Feb. 22.
A wide variety of sports were offered, including bocce ball, basketball, soccer, cycling, track and field and tennis.
The day began with a parade to celebrate the different schools represented, followed by the opening ceremony and traditional Olympic torch lighting.
When the ceremonies were completed, the athletes rushed excitedly to start preparing for their events. They were followed closely by their biggest fans and supporters — family and friends. After each race, the finishing athlete were surrounded in congratulations from supporters and student volunteers.
The joy doing the sports gives the participants is very evident in their smiles as they play. Alberto Chuquimia, who won the 800-meter race, put the day’s events into perspective after crossing the finish line: “You’ve got to finish. I did it.”
Wesley Chapel principal Carin Nettles said many of the school’s students volunteer to help at the event.
“Our students come out and see what the other students can do and want to be a part of it,” Nettles said.
Volunteers were there to time and organize events, give out awards and provide moral support to encourage them to finish strong.
Pasco began the Special Olympics in 1975. The number of participants, who must be age 8 or older, has quintupled to more than 1,000 athletes at the county’s two summer games locations.
The Special Olympics gives those with intellectual and physical disabilities the opportunity to participate in training, competing and winning.
Pasco offers training and other competitions for the Special Olympics throughout the school year.
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