Special Olympics field meet at Lorena High draws hundreds of athletes from across Central Texas

Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 6:42 PM CDT
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LORENA, Texas (KWTX) - The Special Olympics Texas Region 12 track and field meet at Lorena High School brought out 230 athletes from schools across Central Texas for a day full of events, awards and smiles as big as Texas.

The athletes, ages 2nd grade through 22 years-old, competed in everything from sprints to softball throws. The events were tailored, specifically, to the needs of the athletes, and included competitions such as wheelchair races.

10-year-old Savannah Binger from Valley Mills ISD participated in the 25-meter wheelchair race.

Savannah is nonverbal, and in a wheelchair, although doctors have never been able to diagnosis her condition.

Her mother, Shelley Dollins, says Savannah has been on the sideline for years cheering on her sister, and it meant everything for her to get in on the action.

“This is the first time she was able to do the Special Olympics, and it meant the world to us watching her out there because she’s always watching her sister do track events and all kinds of sporting events, so she got to do her own today,” Dollins said. “And she was amazing! All those kids were amazing today.”

Multiple school administrators were there to cheer the athletes to the finish line.

That included Valley Mills Superintendent Chris Dowdy, who Savannah’s family wanted to thank. They called him “the greatest” and said he’s always supportive of all students in the district.

Kasen Rollin is a fourth grader at McGregor Elementary and has autism.

He put his athletic skills on display, winning second place in the softball throw, and the 25-meter dash.

Kasen was quick to answer what he loved most about the meet. “Having fun!” he smiled.

Kevin Harrington is the Director of Special Education at Heart of Texas Cooperative for Exceptional Children. His group includes students from Bruceville-Eddy, Moody, Crawford , Oglesby, McGregor and Valley Mills.

He says getting the chance to put all the hard-working students on one field is extremely rewarding.

“I thought it was phenomenal, Harrington said. “In my case, we had 19 students. We had every student’s family, multiple family members, in most cases. The stands were filled. Parents with special needs students love to see their kids compete normally.”

Dozens of volunteers were on hand, including high school students from the host school, Lorena.

Lorena Elementary School counselor Amanda Wilson helped lead efforts to organize the event.

Other schools represented included those from Lampasas, Waco, Midway, Temple, Bosqueville, Bruceville-Eddy, Salado, Copperas Cove, La Vega, Academy, Belton, Connally, Marlin, Chilton, Rosebud-Lott, Wesphalia, Mart, Riesel and Hallsburg.