Throw, run, walk and kick. Special Greencastle-Antrim athletes compete in G-lympics

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

The Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo are still two months away, but about 50 athletes competed on the Greencastle-Antrim School District's Kaley Field Thursday, May 20.

The event was billed as the G-lympics, and spearheaded by teacher Susan Wright after the cancellation of Franklin County Special Olympics for a second year due to COVID-19.

Autistic support and life skills students from kindergarten through 12th grade took to the field for the soccer kick, softball throw, football throw, 50-yard run and 50-yard walk. On hand to help out were Peer Leaders, members of the unified bocce team and Jennifer Ditchcreek's child development class at the high school.

Students in Brenda Leiboldt's Greencastle-Antrim Middle School autistic support class, compete in the 50-yard walk at the G-lympics on May 20.

The G-lympics started with the pageantry of the Olympic Games and the National Anthem sung by high school vocalists. Although this was not an official Special Olympics-sanctioned event, the student-athletes still recited the pledge:  "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

Chad Stover, elementary principal, announced the name of every participant over the loud speaker before the games began and provided periodic updates and fun facts throughout the competition.

A few of their favorite things

Ashleigh Hunt, an 11th-grader in Mandy Furnish's life skills class, said the soccer kick was her favorite activity.

Ashleigh Hunt, a student in Mandy Furnish's Greencastle-Antrim High School life skills class, competes in the G-lympics soccer kick while Nathan Kirkwood, a high school Peer Leader, keeps score.

Peer Leader Nathan Kirkwood kept track of the kicks that made it into the goal. The 11th-grader is also a student representative to the school board and Thursday evening told the board he and his fellow helpers had "just as much fun if not more" than the special athletes.

"I like spending time with my friends and doing events with them," said 12th-grader Amanda Jones, Ashleigh's classmate, who started participating in Special Olympics when she was in elementary school. The 50-yard walk is her favorite event.

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When Amanda, Ashleigh and the rest of the class moved on the 50-yard run, helpers also included a pair of "A" names — Adrianna Dick and Ali Swain from the child development class.

Adrianna, a 12th-grader, wants to work with kids with disabilities, and Ali, an 11th-grader who is on the track team, likes helping people.

Lucas Rock, a student in Holly Tyler's Greencastle-Antrim Middle School life skills class, competes in the softball throw at the G-lympics. To his right are high school helpers Adrianna Beeler, center, and Hope Rogers.

The softball throw was the competition Lucas Rock liked best on Thursday since G-lympics did not include his favorite sport, basketball.

"I'm 'professish' kinda ... I make the huge shots," said Lucas, a seventh-grader in Holly Tyler's life skills class.

Adrianna Beeler, a 12th-grade volunteer at the softball throw from the child development class, wants to teach special education.

"I enjoy helping kids with special needs, and my mom works at a special needs school," said Hope Rogers, a 10th-grader from the child development class at the softball throw.

Sixth-grader Matthew Snyder, also one of Tyler's students, tapped the football throw as the event he liked the most and noted his class has been practicing in wellness class.

Sheldon Tharp, a student in Susan Wright's K-5 life skills class, competes in the football throw at the G-lympics. He's shown with high school helpers Viktor Heffner and Sydney Barnes.

Sydney Barnes, a 10th-grade Peer Leader at the football throw, talked about "the joy of seeing the kids and what they get out of it."

It's a "fun day for special needs kids ... to see them have fun and have fun doing it," said 11th-grader Viktor Heffner. He was a member of this year's inaugural unified bocce team, which brought together special needs and traditional students for interscholastic competition.

In between contests, students hydrated and rested in the shade of canopies set up around the field and then enjoyed lunch provided by sponsors Lumber Direct Hardware, Blaise Alexander Chevrolet, Brother's Pizza and Jenny Stoner of RE/MAX Realty Agency.