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Special Olympics Kansas athletes get the chance to compete again

Updated: Jun. 5, 2021 at 1:46 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Sports and Programs Manager for Special Olympics Kansas said it’s not just about sports but also friendships, learning and getting out of comfort zones.

“To be able to get back into action is such a big deal for them,” she said. “They’ve been waiting a long time for this day and that we’re able to be outside really helps us to get together and have some fun and compete.”

145 athletes competed for the first time in over a year for the Special Olympics Kansas North Region track meet at Shawnee Heights High School Saturday morning.

The first weekend of June is normally the state track meet in Wichita, but they decided it’d be best to not have everyone go to one location with many athletes at risk of getting COVID-19.

She said they were being very cautious with making the decision and having the event outside was an important factor.

“We did make exceptions if there were exceptions to be made but when I’m not standing here, I’ll have my mask on. We’re trying to play it safe, we’re trying to be over cautious,” she said. “We certainly want everyone to be safe while they’re here but we want them to be here and we want them to get out and have some fun.”

The athletes took part in running, throwing and jumping with variations available for them like walking and standing long-jump for those who were not able to run or who may be nervous to do it the other way.

Of the athletes was Bekah Henderson and Layne Warner, who are both going to be competing in the 2022 Russia Special Olympics, but first, they were excited to be around familiar faces.

Henderson was ready to compete.

“Just have fun and be with my friends and I’m really happy that everyone is here, I wish everyone could be here but I understand, I mean COVID is still going on,” said Henderson. “I feel this is really important.”

Warner found bliss being around people and competing and show off his skills to his full capability.

“I just really wanted to get back on the positive energy that I’ve been missing for the last two years, honestly,” he said.

Guggisberg said people come once to watch or volunteer and find themselves wanting to come back for more.

“The athletes are just so happy, they really enjoy themselves while they’re here and they make you feel good too. It’s really a feel-good environment and hard to walk away from,” she said.

The competition doesn’t stop despite not having a state track meet. They’ll now on to the sports like bowling, softball, golf, tennis and more.

To volunteer or donate to the Special Olympics Kansas -- you can go to KSSO.org

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