PITTSBURG — People showed off their athleticism during the annual Special Olympics Track and Field tournament.
The event began with officers from surrounding law enforcement agencies who carried the Special Olympics torch through Pittsburg as part of the opening ceremony.

There were roughly 430 participants at the event on Wednesday at the Robert W. Plaster Center. They ran 50 and 100 meter dashes and leapt as far as they could in the long jump competition.

Other than track, at other meets athletes may participate in other sports such as basketball or bowling.

The athletes came from area schools and local organizations such as Mosaic and New Hope.
“We do it [the event] to showcase the athletic abilities of people of different abilities,” Special Olympics Director of the Southeast Region Terri Price said, adding the event also helps raise awareness about the individuals and Special Olympics. “The community see these athletes, they may not be able to read as well as you or I but he has different talents so it breeds inclusion and acceptance which is what special olympics is all about.”

During the event several coaches and instructors were recognized for their service to Special Olympics.
This included Pittsburg State University’s Health, Human Performance and Recreation Department which received the Organizer of the year of the Southeast Kansas Region.

Pittsburg State University Associate Professor Laura Covert-Miller and Assistant Professor Sarah Ball, both professors in the Health, Human Performance, and Recreation Department were there to accept the recognition.
“We just do what we do and we do it out of wanting to provide opportunities for our students to become more involved in Special Olympics and just expanding their horizons as far as individuals with disabilities,” Covert-Miller said. “It was very nice to be awarded, it wasn’t expected.”

Ball agreed and said, “It’s a rewarding experience I’m sure for both of us that we are still able to help in this capacity then get our students involved with hands-on experience.”

The university recently began a partnership in March with Special Olympics for a Unified Basketball. PSU students and individuals from the community
“It’s a great program for inclusion,” Ball said.

Several PSU students also volunteered for the event and other students — Elementary Education Unified Majors —  observed the event Elementary Education  as part of the
“We are going to be certified as general education teachers and special education teachers,” Maddy Vanbecelaere said. “So we are just here to observe and hang out with everybody at Special Olympics.”

Monica Moss, who works with students at Pittsburg High School, was recognized as Coach of the Year.
“I was honored to represent Pittsburg High School,” she said.

Athletes have an opportunity to go to the state Special Olympics meet in Wichita.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.