STEUBENVILLE - Nearly 275 athletes from eight area districts will converge May 5 at Harding Stadium for the 36th-annual Ohio Area 9 Special Olympics qualifier.
Those who qualify in bocce and track and field events will go on to participate in the Ohio Special Olympic Summer Games, scheduled for June 22-24 at Ohio State University in Columbus. Athletes from Belmont, Tuscarawas, Belmont, Muskingham, Jefferson, Harrison, Holmes, Carroll counties along with a team consultant will participate in bocce ball and track and field events, according to Mary Kay Schuetz, Jefferson County Special Olympics coordinator.
"It's going to be different this year because we don't have bowling," said Schuetz, adding opening ceremonies for the qualifier begin at 10 a.m. "We do have a new sport called mini-java. It's similar to throwing a javelin."
GETTING READY — Donny Armstrong, left, and Michael Melko, both of Steubenville, get ready for the Ohio Area 9 Special Olympics qualifier, scheduled for 10 a.m. May 5 at Harding Stadium. The event, which qualifies athletes to participate in the Ohio Special Olympics Summer Games in June, will include nearly 275 athletes participating in eight districts adjacent to Jefferson County. - Mark Miller
Other track and field events will include 50-, 200-, 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter races; standing and running long jump; shot put; softball throw; wheelchair and wheelchair slalom races; 25-meter independent walk; high jump; and pentathlon, said Schuetz.
"We will also have a 100-meter wheelchair race," she said, adding admission to the event is free. "We have a total of 274 participants, and we have 73 bocce athletes and 201 track and field athletes competing.
"Athletes (from Jefferson County) come from the Jefferson County Workshop, training center, Shaffer Plaza and the School of Bright Promise," continued Schuetz. "We have 56 (Jefferson County) athletes participating this year, including 27 in bocce and 29 in track."
More than 200 volunteers and chaperones will be assisting with the event, including volunteers will be attending a meeting set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the School of Bright Promise cafeteria, said Schuetz. Those wishing to volunteer should call Kitty Ferguson or Denise Kelly at (740) 264-7176.
Schuetz said she's hoping the public will make the effort to watch the games, adding attendance is free but pays big emotional dividends.
"When you watch the athletes compete your outlook on life changes," said Schuetz, adding the games are "inspiring. Especially watching the athletes that come from other programs and the families of those participating."
For information, call (740) 264-7176.