Photo: Special Olympic athletes from Irving celebrate a job well done following the District Track and Field Meet. /Courtesy Photo
Demonstrating their speed and agility, Irving ISD Special Olympics athletes competed in front of their peers during the District Track and Field Competition at the Irving Schools Stadium on May 5. Five teams of students ran in a 400-meter relay race, and each athlete ran in a 100-meter sprint. Afterwards, the athletes received medals and special recognition.
“This event was held so that we could recognize the Special Olympic teams and give their families, teachers, and fellow classmates an opportunity to watch them run,” Johnson Middle School Athletic Coordinator Joe O’Dell said. “Since they usually run their meets on school days or on weekends, this gives them a chance to shine in front of their peers. We wanted to give them a chance to compete with their classmates with all labels off.”
Of the seven middle schools and three high schools in the district participating in Special Olympics, five teams competed in the relay race: one team from Johnson Middle School, one from Austin Middle School, one from Nimitz High School, and two from MacArthur High School. Although the teams were “competing” against each other, they were all running under the same team name, the Irving Stars. This is the second year the schools have been able to form a district-wide Special Olympics team.
Each year, the district’s Special Olympics teams take part in at least three competitions as well as the Area Special Olympics track meet, which was held the weekend before the district Track and Field Competition. This was the first year for the Special Olympics athletes to compete during the District Track and Field Competition, thanks to the cooperation of the various Athletic Coordinators at participating schools.
Irving ISD Special Education Coordinator Amber Dollar hopes the Special Olympics relay race will become a regular part of the District Track and Field Competition.
“The students absolutely loved this event,” Dollar said. “They really enjoy practicing for these competitions, and they’re always excited to compete and win medals. They’ll bring their medals to school the next day and talk about it. It’s a great way to let them participate in sports like all of the other kids.
“Teachers and parents love these events. It’s a lot of work, but a lot of teachers call it their favorite part of the job. We love to see the kids participate, and we love to see the joy it brings to the athletes, as well as the joy it brings to their families to see their children excel and win at these events,” Dollar said.
There are about 110 athletes in the Irving ISD Special Olympics. All students participate in track and field events; in addition to races, the athletes also participate in throwing competitions such as shot put and discus. High school students also participate in basketball. There may be different events added in the future.
“There’s really no significant difference between Special Olympics and regular athletics,” O’Dell said. “There are no disqualifications. Everyone is given a chance to compete and win.”