Athletes cheered on by hundreds

Athletes of all ages came from 10 counties to run, throw and compete in the Special Olympics spring games at O’Brien Field Friday. Competitors came from local group homes, workshops and schools, 58 agencies altogether, to participate in multiple events including shot put, running, softball throw and tennis throw.

More than 700 volunteers and officials cheered and assisted the athletes over the course of the day.

Danielle Thompson, a sophomore special education major with dual certification in elementary education, said participants in the softball throw received medals for how far they threw.

Others received medals for how far they jumped, how fast they ran or how far they threw a tennis ball.

Angie Haarmann, from Effingham, won a gold medal for long jump and said it felt good to win.

Her sister, Sarah Haarmann, has been coaching her for the event and has done so for past Special Olympics.

Amy Wood, a special education teacher from Carl Sandburg Elementary School, had three students participating. In all, nine special education students from the school participated.

“We’ve had eight classes come out to support our students,” Wood said. “There was a parade through the hallway where students cheered for (the Special Olympics’ athletes).”

Albert Trigg, a student in second grade from the school, competed in the 50-meter dash and received a fourth place ribbon and also took part in the softball throw. Crystal Sparks, a special education teacher at Mattoon Middle School, brought eight athletes to the school, which won a number of gold medals.

“We’ve been training for about three months with wrestlers, track stars, volleyball players and basketball players,” Sparks said.

Hannah Peruden, one of the trainers and an eighth grader at Mattoon Middle School, enjoyed being able to help.

“I felt it was the right thing to do-help people who want to do sports,” she said.

She trained with one of the athletes, a sixth grader Erika Kramer.

Kramer won a gold medal in running and a silver medal in the long-jump.

“It feels good because you won something and did your best,” Kramer said.

Heather Holm can be reached at 581-7942 or [email protected].