Showing support: Classmates cheer on Special Olympians in Westminster competition

Carrolltowne Elementary School's Nathaniel Jancarek runs the 100 meter run at Special Olympics at Westminster High School Wednesday.
Carrolltowne Elementary School's Nathaniel Jancarek runs the 100 meter run at Special Olympics at Westminster High School Wednesday. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO, Carroll County Times)

After Carrolltowne Elementary School fifth-grader Nathaniel Jancarek crossed the finish line, he pumped both his fists in the air.

This was his moment. His family cheered. His classmates chanted his name. His teachers clapped.

Nathaniel was one of more than 200 athletes who participated in the 42nd Carroll County Special Olympics at Westminster High School Wednesday.

The annual spring competition featured sprint races and throwing and jumping competitions for athletes with developmental or physical disabilities.

"Athletes, this is your day," Carroll County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Steve Johnson said during pregame ceremonies. "Do your best. Have fun and enjoy."

Nathaniel did just that. He arrived with a huge cheering section. His entire homeroom class was there. They were decked out in red T-shirts and lined the stadium gates when it was his turn to run.

In many ways, Nathaniel is just one of the guys at Carrolltowne. His classmates taught him a special complicated handshake as a sign of their friendship.

They cheered for Nathaniel and fellow classmate Destiny Murphy each time they competed. In his first race, Nathaniel finished fifth. He slowed down a bit to address a fan he recognized.

"He stopped to hug his mother," Carrolltowne Elementary teacher Amy Neitch said.

Similar scenes played out repeatedly at the long jump pit, the football field and the track's start-finish line.

The athletes competed. Their fan bases cheered and held up personalized signs, following the Special Olympians all over the stadium.

Manchester Elementary School cheered on fourth-grader Megan Smith. Students wore T-shirts with Megan's name that they designed themselves.

Students at both Parr's Ridge and Mount Airy elementary schools were on hand to encourage second-grader Gavin Greaves. They came with huge cardboard signs.

Mechanicsville Elementary School fourth-graders supported their classmates Michael Granata and Becca Guldan.

"It's just so wonderful to see how much [the athletes] succeed," said Mechanicsville Elementary fourth-grade teacher Caroline Chucko, who also indicated she was proud of how the students embraced the Special Olympians.

After each heat, athletes gathered at the football field's 50-yard line for a medal ceremony. By late morning, many athletes were wearing multiple ribbons around their necks and showing them off to their friends.

After running a 50-meter race, Nathaniel decided to participate in a 100-meter run as well. His classmates pushed him to take on the extra race, which he completed to the delight of those who knew him.

He lined up at the start line alongside his classmate Destiny, who finished second then turned around to cheer on Nathaniel.

Once finished, Nathaniel sipped water from a plastic bottle.

"Yes, I heard," Nathaniel said of all his friends cheering him. Then he was ushered off to his second track medal ceremony of the day, where he encountered more cheers and congratulations.

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