Tall and lean with the sleek physique of an Olympic-caliber runner, Evans High School's Craishana Crook easily led the pack in the 50-meter dash.
It was the first of many ribbons she collected Friday, when she and 220 athletes took the field for the Columbia County school system's Special Olympics.
"I was excited," she said when she woke up Friday morning and realized all her training would be tested.
Mimi Tom, a Columbia County recreational therapist, said the Special Olympics is something these athletes look forward to all year.
"It just makes them happy to compete with other athletes," she said.
DaMarkus Beard holds the hand of volunteer Star Parks as he competes in the 2003 Columbia County Special Olympics on Friday at Greenbrier High School.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Last year it was cold and windy, but this year the predicted rain held off to offer sunny skies for the day's events.
The winners from the games Friday will go on to compete at the regional and state levels.
"It's a time for all of these children to come here and compete with others with like abilities," said Anne Comer, a recreational therapist with the school system. "It offers them a closer competition then what they may find in their own schools."
The event involved more than 350 Greenbrier High School student and community volunteers. During the opening ceremonies, athletes from each school paraded around the field carrying their school's banner, and six athletes were selected to round the field to light the Olympic torch.
"We're teaching skills these athletes need to be successful in life," said Candy Padgett, a recreational therapist. "And we have a lot of volunteer buddies assigned one on one with these athletes and they develop relationships they carry throughout the year."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.