Glen Roberson stood in the center of the track at Greenbrier High School on Friday and shouted instructions to the young sprinters in front of him.
"I'm going to say, 'On your mark, get set, go' and you're going to run to the other end as fast as you can," Roberson told them. "On your mark, get set, go!"
A handful of children started running to the finish line of the 50-meter dash, one of 13 Special Olympics events held at Greenbrier last week.
Roberson, an art teacher at Stallings Island Middle School, had the sleeves of his yellow pullover pushed up to his elbows.
"You can't have a bad day coming out here," he said. "It's great."
Hundreds of athletes of all ages from throughout Columbia County participated, with the top finishers from each event qualifying for the State Summer Games held in Atlanta in May. The event drew 350 student volunteers, mostly from Greenbrier, but with some coming from the county's other high schools.
Volunteers had to be approved by teachers and administrators and could not have received any in-school or out-of-school suspensions. But even the most troublesome students could get something out of volunteering for the Special Olympics said Greenbrier teacher and volunteer coordinator Debbie Seymour.
"It's just the most amazing thing I do all year long," said Seymour, who has been in her position each year since Greenbrier opened. "Some of the kids I have the most problem with come out here and see how hard these kids work and how inspirational this is, and they come back with a whole new outlook on life."
Volunteers were paired with athletes of every age group, with the number of volunteers for each athlete varying based on the athlete's needs.
Greenbrier seniors Molly Buckner, Amanda Vanderhoef and Katlin McAllister were charged with overseeing the soccer dribble. They said their reward came in seeing the reactions of the participants.
"It was fun to see the kids get really excited," said Vanderhoef, who handled the soccer awards. "Even if they didn't get first place, just getting the ribbon, I think they really enjoyed that."
Roberson also cited the excitement of the participants when talking about the draw of the event. He said the younger athletes in the sprint events were often too eager to get started .
"'Ready, set,' and they'll take off," he said.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.