Carroll County athletes will compete to qualify for the Special Olympics at Westminster High School Saturday in the first event of its kind in the county. Bocce and track and field events will be held from 9:15 a.m. until around 1:30 p.m.
Attendance is free, and Carroll County Special Olympics Area Director Laurie Brewer encourages spectators to come out to see sportsmanship at its finest.
“Our athletes are the most amazing group of people,” Brewer said. “I’ve been around sports my whole life and they’re just so different to be around. They’re very competitive, they want to win, and they want to do the best they can do, but if they give it 100% and their friend gives 101% and wins, they’re very happy for the other guy. It’s just a whole different level of sports that I had not been around up until I got involved with Special Olympics.”
The Special Olympics qualifier at Westminster High will replace the annual tradition of Spring Games, in which Learning for Independence program students participated as part of adaptive physical education classes.
The 50th and final Spring Games was held in 2022 at Westminster High and included more than 260 athletes from 27 county schools. In addition to student athletes, 35 athletes from the adult sports team, the Tigers, participated. More than 300 volunteers and about 200 athletes typically participated in the Spring Games.
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The change was made because Spring Games typically cost around $6,000 for busing, food, shirts and awards. Brewer said the Special Olympics cost nothing because teams arrive in uniforms and have transportation provided by each respective school district. Food trucks will be onsite to provide lunch options.
Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. Its mission is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition through a variety of Olympics-type activities.
“When I first got involved, I thought it was just for fun,” Brewer said, “I didn’t really have any idea about people with disabilities. I hadn’t really even been around that community very much, so I thought they want to just have fun and you want to provide them with opportunities. They’re actually very athletic, and very competitive.”
Because athletes must compete in two such events for a chance to qualify for Special Olympics, hosting the Westminster event will help those in Carroll and surrounding counties cut down on drive times, Brewer said. Those who qualify will have a chance to participate in the Towson Summer Games, June 23-27 at Towson University.
Westminster High School makes the perfect venue for a qualifier, Brewer said, because the school system permits free use of athletic fields and equipment as part of a partnership with Special Olympics.
“I would like to invite the community to come out and watch because it’s really fun and it’s a good feel,” Brewer said. “If you come and you watch and see what our athletes are all about, that would be really neat.”