Special Olympics comes to Iowa State

Paige Godden

The ISU Summer Games lit up Hilton Coliseum Thursday night, with the traditional torch run put on by a number of police departments in the area.

This year’s Special Olympics Iowa brought together athletes from across the state.

“Each year, when thousands of Special Olympians bring talent to Iowa State, it becomes a warmer, more caring, better place for everyone,” said Thomas Hill, vice president of student affairs.

Hill, who won the bronze medal in 110-meter hurdles at the 1972 Munich Olympics, said, “I feel like I can relate to you through the games I went through. I wish I could compete against you, but you’re too good for me.”

Hill then wished the athletes best of luck in each competition and thanked the family members and friends for joining in.

“Pride comes from seeing our loved ones compete; watching others overcome obstacles brings us the greatest joy,” Hill said.

Ames Mayor Ann Campbell then thanked the 1,800 volunteers and wished the athletes good luck.

Teresa Trickey, who competed in the National games in 2006 and is going to again in 2010, said, “we are all really good friends … this makes us better people whether we win or lose.”

The ceremony honored several people involved with the games including Shirley Kruger for outstanding coach, Traci Long, for outstanding athlete and Scott and Sheila Clements for outstanding family.

The Ed Lehner Award went to Debby Eldred and the Scott Bryant Unsung Hero Award went to Dennis Jackson.

Harrison Barnes is the honorary chair of this years’ games.

Barnes said, “I want to commend the athletes for all of the work they put in, and I hope when you go out there you give it your best.”

With an announcement of, “Let the games begin,” a torch made its way around the coliseum and lit the ceremonial torch to symbolize the opening of the games.

This year the athletes will be competing in games such as cycling, tennis, roller skating, soccer seven-a-side, bocce ball and track and field events.

“The ISU summer games reach out to all 99 counties in Iowa,” said Joyce Allard, director of communications for Special Olympics Iowa.

Allard said half of the 2,700 Olympians are between the ages of 2 and 18. The rest are older than 18, ranging up to 70 years old.

“I’ve worked here for 26 years; the games have been in Ames for about 26 years,” said Pam Wagner, vice president of games and competition.

Wagner said that in order to have a successful Olympics each year, they start planning in January.

Wagner said this year’s games, with 2,700 athletes, is about normal but it is the biggest number they have seen in the past couple of years.

Wagner said the most challenging thing this year was securing all the entries with the coaches and athletes.

“The thing we stress here is the university and Ames’ dedication to the athletes. Everyone is so dedicated,” Wagner said.

Allard said the university, from the president to the students, along with the city of Ames, give phenomenal dedication.

“Our relationship with ISU goes way back … this is the most perfect venue, perfect facility,” said Mark Reed, president and CEO of Special Olympics Iowa.

Allard said with the city’s help they are able to make sure each year is better than the last, “bigger, better [and] more perfect.”

Bruce Barnett, coach of the Waterloo team for 25 years, said the games are a nice reward for his athletes.

“As a coach, this is the culmination of a lot of hard work put forth by the athletes … their reward for the efforts throughout the years,” Barnett said.