'Time to shine'

Special Olympians prepare to run, swim, lift in competition Saturday

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Jim Herschberg took this entire week off work. It's not something he would do for just any event, but Special Olympics is that important to him.

"It's just a great chance to give something back to the community," he said. "Not that many opportunities come around that give you a chance to do something that good."

Herschberg is the games director for the 2005 Special Olympics Colorado Western Area Summer Games, to be held at Moffat County High School on Saturday. And he's not the only one excited about the competition.

Dayla Pritchard, 17, is a member of the Craig swimming team. This is her third year at the games, but she still gets nervous.

"I get butterflies," she said.

But she's not swimming the butterfly; she races individually in the 50 free and 25 breast stroke and the 25 freestyle relay.

"I'm looking forward to getting first," Pritchard said. "We got first place in the relay down in Delta, and that was on their home turf. Now, we're going to have them on our turf."

Nearly 100 athletes from Craig, Vail, Delta and Rangely, and Routt and Summit counties will come to Moffat County for the state-qualifying event.

"It's fun to host it, to have the athletes come to our area," local programs director Bonnie Dalton said. "It's just fun to play hostess."

She's coaching the swimming team and cheering on her four children, three of whom are competitors, and one of whom is a unified par--tner with his sibling.

Herschberg is organizing the games, and Dalton and Cher--yl Chase are planning events for the athletes Friday night.

From 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, a western Olympic town will be set up with a petting zoo at the Moffat County Fairgrounds.

A dinner will be from 6:15 to 7 p.m., and a western dance will be from 7 to 8 p.m. at the pavilion. Herschberg said the public is welcome to attend the free dinner.

The VFW Ladies Auxiliary will sponsor a breakfast from 7 to 8 a.m. at the VFW. The opening ceremonies will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the Safeway parking lot. From there, athletes will run a torch up Finley Lane to the high school track, accompanied by local law enforcement officers.

At the track, Dalton's son, Josh Dalton, will light the Olympic torch, built by Dave DeRose. Balloons will be released, and the games will begin.

Athletes will compete in swimming, power lifting and track and field until noon. A lunch will be served at 11 a.m., and awards will immediately follow.

The Craig Kiwanis Club sponsors the games, with help from community volunteers. Local businesses donate food and lodging so the athletes have little or no out-of-pocket expenses.

"Judging by the community support, I'd say it's a huge deal to the people in town," Herschberg said. "It just really shows Moffat County and Craig's character to do something like this."

Julie Fite, area manager for Special Olympics Colorado, said the games have been held in Craig for many years, and for good reason.

"They've kind of grown attached to it," she said. "They take ownership of it."

And she's thrilled to give the athletes a chance to show the skills they've been working on.

"It's their time to shine," Fite said. "They've been practicing anywhere from six to eight weeks before this. It's kind of neat they can get out and strut their stuff."

For more information about this weekend's event, call Herschberg at 824-9361.

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031 or mperry@craigdailypress.com.

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