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Everyone’s a Winner in These Games

Celebrating scholar-athletes in the Special Olympics Calvert County Spring Games

Above: Amanda Waldron, of Northern High School, running her leg of the 4x100 relay accompanied by her buddy, Garrett Cullember, also of Northern High. Below left: Calvert Middle School student-athletes Caleb Orr, Connor Porecki and Xavier Green after competing in the 4x100 relay. Below right: 16-year-old Jacob Muffley competes in the softball throw.
     Cheerleaders wildly celebrate every arrival. Family and friends proudly sport shirts touting their favorite competing athlete. Volunteers excitedly welcome all who come.
      The sights and sounds greeting you as you entered the field at Calvert High School said you were witnessing something magical: a community coming together to celebrate scholar-athletes competing in the Special Olympics Calvert County Spring Games.
      Even more enthusiastic was the welcome for the competitors. 
      Cheers from the crowd greeted each name announced as the parade of athletes proudly marched the length of the field.
       Spectators joined athletes Sam Fredge, Tara Riggleman and Andrew Williams of Calvert Technology Academy as they belted out the National Anthem. 
      “All of our athletes look forward to participating today. It gives them a chance to shine,” said Christy Harris, director of special education for Calvert County Schools.
      And shine they did, in many ways.
      Revving up the crowd for the games was the Calvert Special Olympics Starz Cheerleading Team.
      “I love to run and compete, and I love it when my friends cheer me on,” said Grace McGirr, a Starz Special Olympics Cheerleader as well as a track and field athlete.
      To start off the games, John Paul Beal and Haile George of Calvert Technology Academy ran in the torch. 
      “Connor looks forward to this every year,” said Kathleen Porecki, whose son Connor is an athlete from Calvert Middle School. “To see the joy and pride when they participate and are pinned with their ribbons is ­priceless.”
       Ribbon pinning is the culmination of months of effort and expectation.
      “Special education department staff identify athletes and the events in which they best compete several months before,” explained Kara Muffley, Calvert County Public Schools’ special education manager. “Every athlete gets two to three opportunities to compete and then proceeds to the awards stand to receive a ribbon. In this year’s track and field events, 101 athletes, ages eight to 21, competed.”
      The events included relays, walk-runs, shot put, tennis-ball throw and softball throw.
      “I love to run,” said Evan Vaughn, a Plum Point Middle School athlete who also plays on the skills basketball and soccer teams.
      Some Olympians have been preparing for the challenge for years.
       “In Calvert, Special Olympics is a year-round sports program that provides exercise, recreation and friendships to developmentally disabled youth and adults,” Muffley said.
      So all ages come out for these Spring Games.
      “Young athletes ages two to seven rotate through 16 stations — including bean bag toss, parachute with balls of yarn and an obstacle course,” Muffley said. They receive participant ribbons on the awards stand.
       Muffley’s son Jacob, 16, competed and son Matthew has volunteered for several years.
      “Making the event successful takes hundreds of volunteers,” Muffley reported.
       Some of the athletes may go on to compete in the Calvert County Special Olympics. The Track and Field event served as a qualifier for the Maryland Special Olympics competition in June. 
      Did you know, by the way, that Special Olympics has a tie to our home state?
      “The Special Olympics started in Maryland,” said Dr. Daniel Curry, superintendent of Calvert County Schools during his welcome remarks.
      Sargent and Eunice Shriver began the event in the backyard of their Maryland farm in the 1960s.
      The Maryland tradition continues throughout Chesapeake Country, including at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.