FAIRFIELD, Pa. -- It was too warm for skiing and too wet to do much else.

But the weather didn't dampen the enthusiasm of some 130 Special Olympics athletes at the 1991 Maryland Winter Games at Ski Liberty here Wednesday.

After three days of opening ceremonies and practices, the athletes, including five from Carroll County, were ready to hit the slopes.

Pam Norton of Sykesville had perhaps the most difficult assignment -- she was competing in the slalom and giant slalom events.

Skiers also competed in other alpine events, such as glide, super glide and downhill, and cross country skiing.

But the slalom course, about halfway up one of Ski Liberty's trails, had a fairly steep vertical drop and several gates that the athletes had to maneuver through. Not onlydid the slalom competitors have to ski, but they had to be able to turn through the gates.

Norton was gliding along just fine, until the binding on one of her skis popped loose between the fourth and fifth gates.

Lana Stricker, her coach, was just a few feet away, but under Special Olympic rules couldn't offer any assistance for a few minutes. After struggling with the balky binding for several moments, Norton finally got the boot back in the binding and successfully completed her run.

The 19-year-old Liberty High student was competing in her second Special Olympics winter games.

"I get to meet new friends," she said when asked what she likes most about the games.

Amy Dietrich, another Liberty High student from Eldersburg, said she had a different reason for liking the games.

"I like it because it gets me away from the house," Dietrich said with a laugh as her mother, Annette, and father, Dick, looked on.

Dietrich, 16, recently transferred to Liberty from the Carroll County Education Center and said math is her favorite subject.

"She has a lot of patience, and she's doing well," Annette Dietrich said of her daughter's move to Liberty.

Like Norton, Dietrich also participated in last year's wintergames at Canaan Valley in West Virginia. Previously, the games had been conducted at the WISP ski resort in Garrett County.

The wintergames were an outgrowth of the Special Olympics that consist of a variety of track and field events. County competition is conducted in the spring at Westminster High and the state games are each summer at Towson State University in Baltimore County.

The state has recently added some indoor games in early spring, including a modified version of floor hockey and basketball shooting.

Because of the cost, training time needed and lack of nearby facilities, the winter games are more limited in scope and participation. No county competition exists in the winter games, for example.

Competition includes alpine skiing (glide, super glide, downhill, slalom and giant slalom), Nordic skiing (cross country races of 50, 100, 500, 1,000 and 3,000 metersand a 300-meter relay) and sit skiing, a modified form of alpine skiing.

Sit skiers, such as Dietrich, compete on the glide and super glide course in a fiberglass shell. A coach skis alongside during therace.

Along with the 130 athletes were more than 50 chaperones and coaches, and several dozen volunteers to run the events, keep trackof and hand out medals, and direct competitors to their venues.

Among the special guests at the event was Baltimore Orioles third basecoach Cal Ripken Sr. and his wife, Vi.

Despite three days of record-breaking warm temperatures and rainy, foggy weather on Wednesday, enough of a slushy, icy base of snow remained for the games. And though the conditions may not have been conducive to top-flight skiing, these athletes didn't mind.

Steve Miller, an 11-year-old fifth-grade student at Robert Moton Elementary in Westminster, said he enjoyed his first ever trip to the games, where he won a gold and a silver inthe glide and super glide, respectively.

Athletes arrived Sunday and were treated to a variety of special events, including dinners, evening entertainment and tours of nearby Gettysburg,

Carroll's delegation also included three coaches -- Stricker, Heather Lee and Western Maryland College lacrosse player Scott Carter, who captured many of the special moments on videotape.

A story in Sunday's Carroll County Sun, "Special athletes brave slopes, weather for the gold," incorrectly identified Lana Stricker.In fact, Stricker was the athletes' chaperon. Janice Gately was the athletes' coach.
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