As he awaited his turn to dive into the waters of the Moffat County High School pool Saturday, Derek Powers was relaxed and enjoying himself, cracking jokes while also thinking about the competition in front of him.
It was only earlier that morning that he had the chance to lead a crowd in an oath that meant a lot to him and many other people — "Let me win. But, if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."
So began the Western Region Spring Games for Special Olympics Colorado, a gathering of athletes from across the Western Slope ready to show their capabilities.
About 100 individuals from Craig, Steamboat Springs, Montrose and Delta were part of the annual event, which includes track and field and aquatics.
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"Great way to spend a morning," smiled regional director Julie Fite shortly after the opening ceremonies, which included a torch run and lighting ceremony.
Fite has been involved since 1989 with Special Olympics, an organization that focuses on allowing everyone to compete to the best of their abilities, whether they use a wheelchair, have visual impairment or other such conditions.
Some events barely differ from any other track meet, such as the 100-meter dash, while others are more attuned to accommodate athletes, such as the standing long jump or the shot put variation of a tennis ball or softball.
What matters for participants, coaches and volunteers is having a good time.
Craig Kiwanis Club is a longtime sponsor of the event, and many members have offered their time for decades.
John Husband said he joined Kiwanis in 1993 and has since been a supporter of the local games.
"I just love seeing the contestants having a great time," he said. "They all just get the biggest kick out of this."
For Powers, 16, the Special Olympics have likewise made up an important part of his life for the past five years. Most recently, he has been practicing his stroke technique in the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle races.
The Craig aquatics team has undergone some name changes in the past, now the Electric Eels after going under banners like the Dolphins and the Barracudas.
Though he likes the latest name, Powers said he is more focused on doing a good job in the pool.
"It's just fun," he grinned. "Sports are a lot of fun."
Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Sports.