Area 5 Special Olympics

Student athletes from Newton, Lauderdale, Kemper, and Clarke counties gathered at Meridian Community College for the annual track and field meet for Special Olympics.

Athletes competed not just for bragging rights, but also to move on to state competition.

Over 500 student athletes and over 200 volunteers participated in more than a dozen events.

Many of the athletes have been practicing at home and at school for weeks for this big event.

"Our main focus is the ability of these kids who come out to participate," said Shannon Ainsworth, Area 5 director. "So often they're not allowed to participate in their communities, in their schools in athletic competition because of their skill level."

This track and field meet allows the athletes to showcase their skills with the opportunity to move on to state level competition.

"From this point we take their scores, submit them to the state office, and they'll qualify to compete on a state level, which is in May," Ainsworth said. "That's our summer games down at Keesler Air Force Base. Around the 9th or the 10th, you'll see the torch run come down 8th Street to kick off our summer games. That's what it signifies, and about 30 athletes from here will move on to compete at the state level in May."

Among the teams present were "Richardson's Rockets" from Parkview Elementary. They donned their capes and came out to compete and to do their very best.

"We came up with it as a group because, of course, Richardson starts with an 'R', and these are Rockets because they are going to rocket to the sky and do a great job," said Regina Richardson, a teacher at Parkview Elementary. "They're super kids!"

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