More than 200 athletes are expected to gather Saturday morning at the Harding Stadium track and field complex.
They will compete in man different events, ranging from a 50-meter race to a wheelchair slalom. At the end of the day, some will qualify to advance to state competition, but the important thing to remember is that there will be no losers.
That's what makes the Area 9 Special Olympics Qualifier different from many competitions. The athletes who will be competing have worked hard to participate. They share a special enthusiasm, and are able to experience true happiness just in putting forth the effort.
The field is expected to include 47 athletes who will represent the Jefferson County Department of Developmental Disabilities. They will be joined by Special Olympians who will be representing eight other programs from around Eastern Ohio.
Those athletes will receive support from a large group of volunteers, many of whom return year after year. Volunteers help in many ways, including greeting the athletes at the finish lines, congratulating their efforts and showing their support.
Competitors get a boost to their self-esteem, for sure. They also demonstrate that teamwork and competitive spirit are alive and well, according to event organizers.
Area residents have traditionally shown up to show their support for the Special Olympics program in general and the participants in particular. Admission is free, and the lessons that can be learned are priceless.
All who have a hand in the Special Olympics program are to be commended for their efforts, but we would like to especially congratulate each athlete who will compete for giving his or her all in each event.