The fourth annual Special Olympics at South Callaway High School brought joy Tuesday morning.
Sponsored by Special Olympics Missouri, the event has been organized each year by Angie Trammell, South Callaway R-2 psychological examiner. The excitement of the day was evident from all of the participants from before the games even started to the end.
"I still have more events to do and I'm already tired. We were jamming out to music on the bus ride over here," Fulton High School student Brittany Mantle said.
The event kicked off with an opening ceremony in which the athletes paraded around the track showcasing pride for their respective school districts. Students from South Callaway Elementary School filled the stands to support their district's athletes as well as the others.
A total of 145 athletes competed Tuesday, the most in the event's history, that ranged from ages 8-21. The athletes competed in three categories: jumping events, which included a standing and running long jump; throwing events, which included a baseball and softball throw; and running events, such as a 15-meter, 20-meter, 100-meter dash and a wheelchair race.
"Winning my medal (in the 100-meter dash) has been my favorite part of the day," Bartley Elementary student Kameryn Jackson said.
There were also 70 young athletes ages 3-7 participating in separate games, which included cup stacking, a dice roll, an obstacle course, a big parachute, a fox tail throw, an egg and spoon race, a bean bag toss, noodle hockey and T-ball.
"I like all of Special Olympics, every part," New Bloomfield school district student Star Swain said.
The 11 school districts that participated in 2019's Special Olympics were Blair Oaks R-2, Chamois and Fatima High School of Osage County R-1, Community R-6, Fulton Public Schools, Linn High School of Osage County R-2, New Bloomfield R-3, Russellville, St. Elizabeth R-4, South Callaway and Tuscumbia High School of Miller County R-3.
Trammell said this total is two more than last year's games. South Callaway looks to keep expanding each year.
"I think there will be at least one, if not two more (districts), added next year," she said.
Fulton brought 62 athletes competing from ages 8-21 and 55 young athletes. Trammell said Fulton had a total of 195 individuals in attendance, which included their volunteers.
"(Fulton) wanted to make sure there was someone there to hold each athlete's hand if they needed it," Trammell said.
The volunteers ranged from students and teachers to community members and they performed the tasks of running the different events, buddying with athletes and preparing 500 lunches for all of the athletes. New Bloomfield High School students Erin Garrison and Georgia Wolken worked as first-time volunteers helping with the long jump events.
"I've enjoyed watching everyone participate and seeing their faces when they win and they're all excited," Wolken said.
The excitement of winning was hard to contain for many of the athletes. After earning his first medal of the day, South Callaway school district student John Bell walked around the field proclaiming, "I'm a winner! I'm a winner!"
However, for some participants, winning was one of the last things on their minds. Fulton High School student Dakota Wynn has successfully competed in the games before and wore two gold medals he had earned that day around his neck.
"I'm only here to have fun, not to win. To me, these medals are nothing," Wynn said. "The real trophy is my friends and family cheering me on. I just love getting together with my friends and having a good time."