Craig Hundreds came to Craig on Saturday to compete and celebrate one of the most special days of the year.
The Special Olympics Colorado Craig Summer Games took place at Moffat County High School, with track and field, aquatics and powerlifting competitions for athletes from across the Western Slope and also from Cheyenne, Wyo. Onlookers included hundreds of family members, volunteers and others.
The day was deemed a success for all involved, particularly the athletes.
“The medals are my favorite part,” said William Johnson, 11, who helped bring the torch to the track and competed in several events on the track, hauling in three gold medals. “The wheelchair race is my favorite, because I got to race against Bobby. That was a rematch for us.”
Matt Frederickson, the track coach for the Craig Cougars team, has been involved with Special Olympics in some capacity for the past 15 years, he said. His brother, Joshua, competes, and Frederickson said it always has been a rewarding experience.
“The area event is a warm-up for state, but we love getting to see the athletes do their events,” he said. “That’s what they’ve worked for, and the character of these athletes is the best thing. They’re the best people you’ll ever meet.”
Volunteers affiliated with organizations and others who just wanted to be there and help came out in big numbers to make it a successful day. Julie Fite, the area coordinator for Special Olympics Colorado, said it was a great event.
“We were a little bit down in numbers from last year, but that was made up for in spirit,” Fite said. “Everything went well. I have to say thanks to all of our sponsors and volunteers. They go above and beyond for this event every year.”
Dan Severson, who help plan and organize the event with the Kiwanis Club of Craig, has been involved with the Craig games for eight years. He said it was a good day, but a lot of that credit goes to the one thing out of everyone’s control.
“Weather determines a lot of it,” Severson said. “Today was perfect. It’s all about the kids and athletes, and it is rewarding.”
Severson said he hopes every year to get more people to come out and volunteer or even cheer from the stands, because he knows they would come back in the following years.
“They’d probably be hooked,” he said.
After the running, swimming and lifting came to a close Saturday, the participants and volunteers headed into the Moffat County High School gym for the medal ceremony, Johnson’s favorite part. The ceremony celebrated every athlete’s accomplishments, and gave them a chance to show off. Many athletes struck a pose or raised their arms to pump up the crowd while on the podium.
That happiness highlights for Frederickson what makes the Special Olympics so great.
“It helps you come back to reality,” he said. “Seeing what they go through every day, and they’re still better off than us. That’s why my wife and I do it, you just get to be with the best people.”
Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 970-875-1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org