GIRARD – To put it bluntly, you could say that Maryjane Dunning followed in the footsteps of a relative – even if one left a few more tracks than the other.
“I’ve always wanted to do it,” Maryjane, 14, of Youngstown, said. “My grandmother was a marathon runner and ran all (on) continents.”
Suffice it to say that Maryjane may not be a world runner, but was happy to settle on a track to get a gold medal in the 100-meter walk-something she did during the 11th annual Special Olympics Track & Field gathering on Saturday at Girard Arrowhead Stadium, 200 S. Highland Ave.
The main sponsors of the event are the Girard-Liberty Rotary Club, Fairhaven Special Olympics and the Girard City School District. Several hundred spectators and dozens of volunteers helped cheer on the athletes.
Special Olympics aims to provide year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic events styles for those with different challenges in developing physical fitness, showing courage and sharing their gifts, skills and friendships with their families, other athletes and the community. , according to the Special Olympics mission statement.
Maryjane, who attended the Potential Development Center in Youngstown, remembers earning a medal during her first year of cheerleading. In addition, she received a lot of encouragement to participate in Saturday’s games from her mother and others, said Maryjane, who also participated in the 100-meter run and a relay race.
An estimated 160 athletes from the provinces of Ashtabula, Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana participated in the men’s and women’s softball throw competitions, 50-, 100-, 400- and 1,500-meter run, shot put, long jump and mini-javelin throw competitions. Despite the threat of rain, the event took place under relatively cloudy skies, light winds and temperatures in the mid-70s.
The five teams that make up the family-friendly competition are the Ashtabula County Lakers, Columbiana County Comets, Fairhaven Bulldogs, Mahoning Public Warriors and the Potential Development Pirates.
Two of the Pirates who were happy to include a medal in their athletic attire were Billy Odem, 12, and Ricky Morlan, 14, both of Youngstown. Billy and Ricky won a silver medal and two golds, each.
“It’s something I can do well,” Ricky said when asked what motivated him in the move. “It makes me feel confident.”
For his part, Ricky ran or walked in the 50- and 800-meter competition. He also enjoys participating in sports, especially track and field, he added.
“I want to lose weight,” Billy chuckled, pointing to his main reason for participating in the Special Olympics.
Football and basketball are one of his favorite games, said Billy, who lists the Los Angeles Lakers and Pittsburgh Steelers as his top teams.
Bo Greene, Fairhaven’s athletic director, said the athletes ’most popular activities are the boys and girls softball throw and 100-meter run. However, the intangible benefits are just as important – if not more so – than silver, gold or bronze, added Greene, who is also Trumbull County’s coordinator of the event and a former track coach at Niles High School. .
“It’s more of a spirit of competition for these people,” as he.
Another important aspect of the event was to give participants the opportunity to experience more joy and a closer feeling to normal after two years of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and associated closures and orders. to stay home, all of which canceled the Special Olympics. in the last two years.
Greene would also like to thank Jack Muransky and Kim Husk for their help in volunteering for the occasion.
Also, Saturday’s Special Olympics are in memory of the late Randall “Randy” Suchanek, who died July 28, 2020, at the age of 69. Suchanek served as president and assistant treasurer of the Girard-Liberty Rotary Club and a co-founder of the Special Olympics event.