Area Athletes Compete in State Special Olympics

Thursday, June 5, 2014
Participants pack the stands at Harding University at the state Special Olympics Summer Games. (courtesy photo)

Over 2,000 athletes from across Arkansas converged on Harding University in Searcy on Thursday, May 22, for the start of the annual state Special Olympics summer games. This year local coaches Toby McGuire and Erma Campbell accompanied nine Piggott-area athletes who had qualified for the state competition to the event. And, they report the local group returned from the games with a variety of medals and ribbons to show for their hard work.

This year the local athletes who took part in the summer games included, Jesse McCracken, Chris Shipman, Joseph Gates, Ian Lawton, Zane Henderson, Katelyn Maynard, Laiken Boyd, Sarah Meadows and Lavon Coley.

McCracken and Shipman also took part in this year's torch run by law enforcement, which originated at numerous locations around the state, including the Clay County Detention Center in Piggott. The two local athletes, accompanied and escorted by local law enforcement, took part in the first two legs of the torch run with members of the Arkansas State Police and local supporters. The first leg spanned from the detention center to PHS, with the second leg advancing the torch through Rector.

All of the torches converged on the steps of the state capitol building on Thursday, for the final leg back to Searcy and the Harding University campus for the opening ceremonies.

The local Special Olympians represented Area One, which is comprised of Clay, Greene, Randolph and Lawrence counties. Each year Area One hosts several events for the athletes of Northeast Arkansas, including the annual basketball competition at Piggott High School and the regional track competition at Greene County Tech.

"It was such a wonderful experience and the folks of Harding University were so great," Campbell said of the trip. "They opened their campus to us, opened-up their dorms for us to use--it was just awesome."

Also making the trip with the athletes was longtime local Special Olympics coach McGuire, along with volunteers Pam and Alan Morris and Pat and Donnie Coley.

The state of Arkansas is slated to send about 130 athletes, coaches and volunteers to the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games, set for June 14 to 21 in Princeton, N.J. The athletes from the Arkansas team are scheduled to participate in aquatics, athletics, Bocce, bowling, cycling, powerlifting, basketball, flag football, sprint triathlon, soccer and softball.

Those wanting more information on the Arkansas Special Olympics team may do so by visiting them online at www.specialolympicsarkansas.org

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