LEONARDTOWN, Md. – On April 13, 2023, St. Mary’s Ryken High School was the host of the 2023 St. Mary’s County Special Olympics. Roughly 100 students from 15 schools within the county participated, along with approximately 75 athletes from the community program. Athletes ranged from ages 8 to 16 for students and 13 to 60 for the community program members.
Spring Games provided the traditional Track and Field events of running, throwing, long jump,shot put, and Bocce. The athletics consisted of a standing and running long jump, running 25 meters, 50 meters, and 100 meters; shot put for both men and women (different weights of the shot); and throws were (depending on the strengths of the person) a tennis ball, a softball or the mini-Jav.
This event for the community program athletes was a qualifier geared towards attending the state competition called Summer Games at Towson University in June.
Jeff Hagen, the Area Director for Special Olympics Maryland – St. Mary’s County, has been a part of the program since 2003 and became the Area Director in 2019.
Hagen explained what got him interested in the program.
“Finding a sport my son would be able to participate in without all the pressure of the rigorous competition of the traditional sports within the county,” Hagen told TheBayNet.com. “Special Olympics offers year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.”
Hagen also explained why he believes this event is so important for the community.
“I feel this is a great advertisement of our community program that might interest both future community program athletes to join as well as provide some insight for future volunteers to come sign up to help us with our community program,” explained Hagen. “We offer 15 various sports in our community program of which there are two (Athletics and Bocce). We have athletes that are no longer able to participate due to health issues and we are looking for more younger athletes to fill in the ranks of our athlete pool. The same with our volunteer force. We have some very seasoned volunteers that are a lot of times our coaches that are in their 60s and 70s and we need to get younger volunteers. We were successful from this past Spring Games to recruit at least two younger volunteers that will soon become coaches for some of our sports.”
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