Area 5 Special Olympics includes athletes from Kemper, Lauderdale, Newton, and Clarke Counties.
For the 1.4 millions athletes worldwide who have the opportunity to compete in Special Olympics, there is nothing like it in the world. It's a motivational event where people who don't fit the mold for typical athletic competition get to compete and excel.
"The kids have a wonderful time and have an opportunity to excel and feel good about themselves," said Area 5 director, Pat Barber.
"An athlete might see their brother or sister go play softball or track at school. This gives them good self esteem because they can come out here and be winners," said Fredna Cross, a member of the State Special Olympics Board.
Cross has been a vital part of Special Olympics Track and Field in Meridian since 1968. She helped to establish the program locally and has seen it flourish. This year the competition had 299 athletes.
The impact of Special Olympics goes far beyond the athletes. It touches the lives of everyone involved, from the Marines who help to work the events, to the families and friends who cheer on the athletes from the stands.
These athletes swear an oath: "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."
"It's such a blessing to come out and see them really try their hardest and put forth maximum effort," said MSgt. Ronald Adkins, a Marine stationed at N.A.S. Meridian.
Athletes qualifying at the Area 5 Competition will advance to the State Games at Keesler Air Force Base.