Special Olympics athletes race to finish with smiles on their faces at Western Regional Competition in Craig | CraigDailyPress.com

Special Olympics athletes race to finish with smiles on their faces at Western Regional Competition in Craig

CRAIG — Special Olympic athletes brought close competitions and big smiles to the Western Regional Games in Craig on Saturday . Athletes and their supporters rocked the Moffat County High School pool and track with a commotion of cheers for competitors in swimming, track and field events.

The Special Olympics provide sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The Western Regional Competition brought about 70 athletes from across the Western Region, which includes most of Colorado's Western Slope.

Paul Gibson and Brian Temmer both said they had fun racing in the swimming events. They traveled from Delta with their friend, Robert Westwood, to compete. Gibson and Westwood participated in the 25-meter freestyle and 25-meter backstroke. Temmer competed in the 50-meter freestyle, backstroke and relay.

Though it was chilly outside Saturday morning, the temperature in the high school swimming pool was perfect, Gibson added.

"It's cold out there and nice and warm in here," he said.

By mid-morning, the day had warmed to the mid-60s, and athletes, supporters and volunteers soaked up the sun at the track and field events.

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The volunteers had been concerned about less-than-pleasant weather, but Bryan Ludgate, event coordinator and a member of the Craig Kiwanis Club, said the athletes have a good time, regardless of the temperature.

"They don't care if it's raining, snowing, whatever. We've had it all,” he said. “They just want to come and have fun and compete."

The event was put on with the help from the Kiwanis, MCHS Key Club, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and community volunteers. Moffat County School District contributed equipment and a venue for the events, and several local businesses — including Walgreens, City Market, McDonald's, Subway, KFC and Domino’s — donated items.

Ludgate said his role as event coordinator is easy, with so many volunteers and supporters.

"It kind of runs itself with the work they put in," Ludgate said. "We're never shorthanded."

On Friday, the Kiwanis hosted a dinner and dance for the athletes at the Moffat County Fairgrounds. Saturday morning, local law enforcement facilitated a torch run with the athletes. Athletes carried the torch from the old Safeway building to a cauldron, which was lit in an opening ceremony on the high school track. The Boy Scouts raised the flag, and the games commenced.

After a morning of competition, athletes chowed on a lunch donated by local businesses before being presented medals at the afternoon awards ceremony.

"It's one of the best things in the community," Ludgate said of the event and the volunteer who make it happen.

Contact Eleanor Hasenbeck at 970-875-1795 or ehasenbeck@CraigDailyPress.com. Follow her on Twitter, @elHasenbeck.