Over 300 athletes from 12 local school districts visited Pioneer Stadium for the 7th Annual Alfred State Track & Field Spectacular on May 8th. Below is the story written by Jason Jordan written for The Spectator.
The measure of a champion is more than just calculating wins and losses. Area students proved that on Wednesday with a tremendous show of spirit on the track.
"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt," says the humble but proud Special Olympic athlete oath. Thanks to local partnerships, that message is alive and well locally.
On Wednesday, Alfred State College was the site of the region's Special Olympics. The annual Alfred State Special Olympics Track & Field Spectacular has been going on for seven years now, and has its origin story in the college joining the NCAA's Division III ranks.
"NCAA Division III has a great partnership with Special Olympics. It's a great point of pride for Division III, so it was an easy choice to make the call to their offices in Rochester where we found great support," said Paul Welker, Sports Information Director at the college.
There were no Special Olympics for area athletes outside of Rochester, Olean or Binghamton until the college took on the event. Now, it is the premier event in the area. In total, roughly 300 athletes from 12 area school districts took part in events that included the 25-meter wheelchair dash, 50-meter dash, 100-meter dash, 100-meter walk, 200-meter dash, 400-meter dash, 400-meter walk, 4x100-meter relay, shot put, softball throw, tennis ball throw, running long jump and standing long jump.
Races were punctuated with hugs, hand-shakes, high-fives and ribbons noting the winners.
The event marked the area's largest such event, growing from humble beginnings, when 60-70 athletes participated in its first year.
The participating school districts were glad to have a partner in Alfred State to provide enriching activity to their students.
"This is my sixth year coming to this event, and they do a wonderful job of supporting the kids and providing an opportunity for them to be successful and have a great day. The athletic staff and students are a big part of this and they've been very accommodating," said Hornell City School District Superintendent Jeremy Palotti. "It's definitely a highlight of our year."
"We work tirelessly to support the needs of our students year-round, and provide opportunities for them. This is a great one and we're glad to support it."
The event's longevity and ongoing growth could not have happened without a vast volunteer effort, according to Welker. Almost 200 volunteers from the college, participating schools and surrounding communities had a hand in the day's success.
"It's one of the best events we run because you see the smiles and the high fives. The student athletes who return recognize the athletes, and we always have great participation," Welker said.
David Lasnik, one of dozens of student athlete volunteers, relished the experience.
"This is definitely a part of the culture here at Alfred State. The baseball team is encouraged to do as much community service as we can and to be a better citizen. This is my first one, but I'm looking forward to doing it again next year and giving back," he said.
"Just seeking smiles on the kids faces is great," the freshman education major continued. "This gives me an in-depth look into the kinds of things I will be doing."
While Alfred State College is a major driving force behind the Track & Field Spectacular, Welker also credited representatives from Special Olympics New York for their continued support of the event, helping to make a genuine sports experience for its participants.
Organizers promised that the event would be back next year, giving even more area students the chance to form lasting memories and points of pride to share with their families.