Special Olympics to have new events, divisions

Kalyn Hayslett, Verge Reporter

Approximately 467 special Olympians trained all year for the Area 9 Spring Special Olympics from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday at O’Brien Field.

Numerous returners will compete in track and field divisions while a few Olympians will be competing in newly established events.

Vanessa Duncan, director of Area 9 Special Olympics, said there are three new divisions being added to the schedule that the Olympians will compete in for the first time.

The mini javelin throw exhibition is another level of difficulty from the softball throw and will be given a trial run for these games and if the Olympians enjoy it will eventually become an official event.

With the help of the Eastern’s athletic training department, ten Olympians have been able to physically prepare themselves for the high jump, but only four will compete.

The Olympians are required to have a coach to prepare them physically to perform in their division as well teach them the rules and regulations.

There are three pentathlons will receive extra attention and care because they will compete in five events including the 100 meter, 400 meter, shot put, long jump and high ump.

For the first time ever there will be high jumpers and pentathlon athletes for a new, unique and exciting competition this year, Duncan said.

Hundreds of students, student athletes, coaches, faculty and community members serve as volunteers united to make the Special Olympics enjoyable for all of the Olympians.

O’Brien will be buzzing with over 400 volunteer’s completing managing tasks: set-up, traffic, parade line-up, runners and track and field timers.

Duncan expressed her gratitude for all of the volunteers because without them the Olympics would not be a success.

“This is the third largest spring games in the state next to Lombard and Chicago so EIU is an essential part of the spring games coming to fruition,” Duncan said.

Kathlene Shank, the special education chair, said enthusiastic fans in the stands cheering on the Olympians as they compete really makes a large impact and Eastern has prided itself as being one of the nosiest games.

In previous years hundreds of volunteers were assigned as fans in the stand having the task of paying attention to the games and encouraging the Olympians whether that is yelling, chanting, clapping, whistling or making posters.

“We had a hard time this year,” Shank said. “For a while we worried because we were so short on volunteers and we have no idea why.”

Fortunately, the head volunteers did a great job of spreading the word and encouraging members of different registered student organizations to participate in the games, volunteer coordinator Baylee Dibble, said.

“This year because we needed everyone and only had enough volunteers to cover all of the events I don’t know how many people will be in the stands, but I hope a lot of people wake up that morning and decide to come and be a fan in the stand,” Shank said.

Volunteers are needed from 7:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Volunteers should wear gym shoes and not use their cell phones unless taking.

The opening ceremony begins at 9 a.m. with the parade of athletes and the lighting of the torch with a welcoming speech from Eastern Illinois University President William Perry. The awards ceremonies will begin at 2 p.m.

“We see several of the special athletes come back year after year and they really look forward to it,” Shank said. “If you get to come over there you will just see a lot of smiles no matter rain or shine, the Olympians are happy.”

Kalyn Hayslett can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].