About 78 students jumped, ran and competed in an array of events Friday at Bronco Stadium in Zachary as part of the fifth annual Special Olympics time trials.
First- through 12th-graders from Rollins Place, Zachary and Copper Mill Elementary schools, Northwestern Middle and Zachary High took part in hopes of recording entry scores into the Capital Area Special Olympics.
Debra Toney, an adapted physical education teacher who organizes the event each year and who is a member of the Capital Area Special Olympics management team, said Friday was her last Time Trials event, as she will be retiring in May.
“I truly hope someone will take over organizing this wonderful event for our students,” Toney said. “I’ll miss teaching and coaching the athletes and working with all the wonderful volunteers and people I’ve met over the past five years.”
Organizing the event for Zachary students with special needs and intellectual disabilities were the Zachary Community School District, Student Support Services and Adapted Physical Education departments.
“I’m especially grateful to Aeneid Mason, director of Student Support Services, for the support and giving me the opportunity to organize and hold this event for the special students in our district so they could participate in Special Olympics,” Toney said.
Numerous volunteers — from school district personnel, students and members of the Zachary High track team to coaches, teachers, parents of special needs athletes and members of Kiwanis, Moreau Physical Therapy and the Zachary Fire and Police departments — manned the jumping, running and throwing events.
Toney, adapted physical education teachers Chet Delee, Monica Dieterich and Michael Stephens and the athletes have been preparing for the trials since September, which kicked off with a round of physical exams for the students.
Toney also helped organize and oversee two bowling events for East Baton Rouge and Zachary students participating in Special Olympics events.
The Zachary Time Trials provide a chance for the special athletes to experience what it’s like to compete on a track, experience competition and obtain entry scores into the Capital Area Special Olympics Track and Field meet to be held at Woodlawn High School on March 4-5, Toney said.
The Capital Area State Indoor Games are March 6-8 and State Summer Games are slated for May 22-24.
Delee opened the trials Friday by introducing the parade of athletes who carried banners they designed representing each of their schools and based on this year’s theme, “Special Olympics Connected,” which was combined with the school district’s ongoing theme of “Zachary Connected.” Judges from the School Board office voted on the best banner, naming a tie between Rollins Place and Copper Mill Elementary schools. Both schools’ athletes will receive ice cream parties, Delee said.
Additional volunteers included ZHS student trainers led by coach Sean Stanton, who provided medical assistance and first aid as needed; Subway, which provided discounted lunches for everyone; and SASSY (Student Assessment and Support Services for Youth) personnel, who picked up and delivered the lunches to the stadium.
Blake Smith, 11, of Copper Mill, recited the athletes’ oath: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
Students Koyia Hartford led the Pledge of Allegiance; Cyrus HuiHui and Molly Mahan sang the national anthem; Maj. Leslie Martin and Zachary’s ROTC presented the colors; and Debbie Mashaw, of the local Kiwanis Club, recited the opening prayer.
Kiwanians Mike Alu, Bruce Langley, Erby Magee, Al Phillips, Barbara Rogers and Mashaw helped with the running events.
Captains Jimbo Nolan and Jonathan Knight and firefighters Gordon Segraves and Cody Shaffer, of the ZFD, assisted by measuring distances of students competing in the jumping event.
Zachary Police Department personnel volunteered for the softball throw, including two husband-and-wife teams: Assistant Police Chief Darryl Lawrence and his wife, DARE officer Jay Lawrence; and Lt. Trevor Hannum and his wife, Brandy Hannum, who is secretary to the police chief. Other ZPD volunteers were from the communications, detectives and DARE divisions.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to give back to the youth in this community,” Brandy Hannum said. “It’s a joy watching them compete, and seeing the smiles on their faces is worth it. It’s always a great day.”
More than 150 people volunteered in Friday’s event.