Special Olympics qualifier set for Saturday

STEUBENVILLE – Local athletes have trained hard and are ready to show the area they’ve got the right stuff during the Area 9 Special Olympics Qualifier set for 9 a.m. Saturday at Harding Stadium.

Forty-seven athletes representing the Jefferson County Developmental Disabilities as part of more than 200 Olympians from nine programs are scheduled to compete. More than 100 volunteers and chaperones will be on hand to assist the athletes as they compete in bocce ball; 50-, 100-, 200-, 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter races; standing and running long jump; shotput; softball throw; wheelchair and wheelchair slolum races; 25-meter independent walk; and high jump, according to Heather Colella, media relations for the Area 9 Special Olympics Committee.

“We would like to fill the stands this year and show these special athletes the same kind of support we give to our high school sports programs here in the Ohio Valley,” said Colella. “Teamwork and competitive spirit are alive and well in the Special Olympics. Attendance costs nothing but pays big emotional dividends.”

Athletes must compete at a qualifier in order to compete at the Ohio Special Summer Olympic games this summer in Columbus, according to Colella. Opening ceremonies at Harding Stadium begin at 10 a.m., she added.

Those agencies participating in the qualifier this year include the Belmont Special Olympics; Jefferson County Developmental Disability agency, as well as the Tuscarawas, Muskingum, Holmes, Guernsey and Harrison counties developmental disabilities agencies; Holmes Public; and Carroll County Special Olympics.

Janie Bodo, coordinator for Jefferson County, said there will be plenty of hardworking athletes in the county ready to show what they can do.

“(Athletes) from the (School of Bright Promise) and our outside contracts will be participating,” she said. “We have 47 from Jefferson County participating. We have 28 participating in double bocce. The other 19 are participating in track and field and softball throw. We also have one athlete participating in wheelchair slolom.”

Bodo said she’s hoping for a big turnout to cheer the athletes on.

“It’s locally funded, so a lot of local businesses have helped make this possible,” she said. “Our athletes take great pride in what they’ve accomplished. They work extremely hard. They deserve the recognition of the community for all their hard work.”

For information, call (740) 264-7176.