Special Olympics Spring Games: 'There are no athletes like these guys'

It was a dead heat at the finish line of the 100-meter dash.

Arms and legs pumping, Jubai Askew and Brandon Knecht were putting their all into the short race hoping for first place. But when they finished, to cheers from their teachers and friends, the high school students found out it had been a tie, most appropriate on a day when everyone was a winner.


The skies Wednesday morning were overcast, but the athletes, dressed in neon orange shirts, brought their brightness and energy to the Spring Games for Special Olympics of Carroll County.

Crossing the finish line of the dash felt “really awesome,” Askew said.


He and Knecht both said they had been practicing running during physical education classes.

Knecht said one of his favorite parts of the day was getting the chance to earn medals.

The Games saw 206 participants this year. They competed with their peers from schools and programs around the county in running, standing long jump, softball throw and other track and field events.

For the opening ceremony, an honor guard of Carroll County law enforcement and the Westminster High School marching band joined more Special Olympics athletes and members of adaptive physical education programs across the country to parade down the track.

The 47th annual Special Olympics Spring Games were held at Westminster High School Friday, bringing together hundreds of athletes for a day of sportsmanship.

“All of our students have ability, in our classrooms, in our schools and our communities. And our student-athletes here today at Special Olympics: we came to see you in competition today and celebrate you,” said Superintendent of Carroll County Public Schools Steve Lockard.

“Run hard, throw far, but most importantly, have fun,” said Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5.

Mitchell Smolinski, a ninth-grader at Westminster High School, led the Pledge of Allegiance for the gathered crowd. When he was handed the microphone, he tapped it and asked, “Is this thing on?” The crowd laughed.

Later in the day he was tired after finishing the 50-meter dash, but he said he felt happy when he crossed the finish line.

“This place is colorful. This place is beautiful,” he said, referring to Special Olympics.

Westminster High School hosted the Spring Games, and about 80 students volunteered as fans to go throughout the day with the athletes. Students from the other county high schools traveled in to join them.

Law enforcement took to the frigid waters of the Chesapeake Bay on Friday, Jan. 25, for the Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge. The initiative raises money for the Special Olympics Maryland. As members from their agencies plunged, Carroll County's top cops explained why it's a worthy cause.

The back of the T-shirts worn by the athletes and their fans read “Never give up.”

Idris Fofana, an eighth-grader at Oklahoma Road Middle School, competed in the softball throw, long jump and 50-meter dash. Even though he won a silver medal in the dash, running wasn’t his favorite activity.


His top activities are to “chill out, play Fortnite and play basketball,” he said.

How did he practice to get ready for the events?

Fofana said: “I play outside a lot.”

In June, Carroll County law enforcement agencies will participate in the Law Enforcement Torch Run to raise funds for Special Olympics Maryland. In the past year, Maryland law enforcement agencies have raised $3.2 million for Special Olympics Maryland, said retired Westminster Police Chief Jeff Spaulding.

Laurie Brewer, area director for the Carroll County program of Special Olympics Maryland, has been with the organization for 10 years.

“I’ve been in sports my whole life. There are no athletes like these guys,” she said. “They’re competitive, they work hard, they want to win. But if they don’t, they’re happy because their friend won. It’s completely different.”

For more information about Carroll County Special Olympics, which is a year-round sports program for athletes with intellectual disabilities, visit their Facebook page, Special Olympics Maryland - Carroll County.

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