More than 225 runners and walkers braved extremely heat and the humidity on June 8 to participate in the seventh annual Maryland Special Olympics' Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Featuring local law enforcement officers from around the county and from Maryland State Police — as well as several of the athletes who were to participate in the weekend's Special Olympics summer games event in Towson, at Towson University — the torch run brought the flame to Westminster from five different points in the county.
Participants gathered in the morning at either Mount Airy, Sykesville, New Windsor, Taneytown or Manchester area.
By 11:30 a.m., the groups, some having traveled more than 16 miles, had all reached McDaniel College, where they rested in the shade before running the final leg of their journey down Westminster's Main Street for the award ceremony at the Westminster's Family Center on Longwell Avenue, followed by lunch at the fire department.
"I will take this — the sweat — over the cold any day," said Maggie Rauser, who participated in last year's cold, wet Torch Run.
This year, she and friends Tina Shupp and Abby Gruber, started their journey from Manchester.
"It was decent and shaded," Gruber said of the ride. "I'm happy to be out here to support a good cause."
Matt Hamilton started talking about the event in April, according to his father, Bill Hamilton. A swimmer, Hamilton has taken part in the Torch Run the last three years. This year, he carried the torch down Westminster's Main Street.
"It's a great event," said Bill Hamilton. "Last year was cold and rainy. Quite different."
Keeping everyone hydrated was the key, according to Maj. Denny Strine of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, which participated in the run event.
"We had eight runners, and roughly 17 bikers on our leg," Stine said. "We made sure they were hydrated. It was extremely warm."
Before he left in a police car, Robby Shilling, 11, saw the entire student body of Elmer Wolfe Elementary School, in Union Bridge, line up outside to cheer their support.
"It was very exciting," said Robby's mother, Kimberly. "He is very excited about the Olympics. It's all about the swimming for him."
Jeremy Sherfey did not participate in the run the to Westminster. As a part of the security team at McDaniel, he had to set up the reception area for the incoming participants.
But he and his buddy, Russell Alexander, a swimmer in the Special Olympics, did get to run down Westminster's Main Street.
"They wouldn't let me run because I had to set up," Sherfey said, before he left. "I did my stretches."
After an exciting morning of riding in a police car and meeting the police cadets in Sykesville, Mary Broos, 11, sat on the curb before the final run — exhausted.
"She's wiped out," said Barbara Broos, Mary's mom. "I think she's done for the day. We're looking forward to lunch."