225 Special Olympians from region run, jump, toss

Correspondent photos / Sean Barron Students at Fairhaven School in Niles participate in the opening ceremony to start Saturday’s 13th annual Trumbull County Special Olympics Invitational at Girard Arrowhead Stadium.

GIRARD — For Hannah A. Price, perhaps the most endearing aspect of being in a longtime friendly and uplifting competition lies more in front of her than above her.

“It’s really fun. I get to meet a lot of new friends,” Price, 21, of Salineville, said.

The social aspect — and feeling proud of her achievements — slightly outweighed the success she had with holding a shot put over her head before tossing it as far as she could. Nevertheless, Price was able to do both of those and more, courtesy of being part of the 13th annual Trumbull County Special Olympics Invitational on Saturday at Girard Arrowhead Stadium.

A steady rain that began Saturday morning failed to dampen the spirits and determination of an estimated 225 athletes from seven programs in Trumbull, Mahoning, Columbiana, Ashtabula, Portage and Geauga counties who competed in a series of track-and-field events. Those included the 800-meter walk and run, the women’s long jump, running long jump and shot put, the 100-, 400- and 1,500-meter runs, softball and javelin throws, the men’s 50- and 200-meter runs and a men’s 50-meter assisted and unassisted walk.

Participating teams were the Mahoning Public Warriors, the Potential Development Pirates, the Fairhaven School Bulldogs, the Columbiana Comets, the Ashtabula Lakers, Portage-Kent and the Geauga Blue Streaks.

Price, a 2021 Southern Local Junior / Senior High School graduate and part of the Comets team, said Saturday’s competition was her first foray in Special Olympics. Tossing a shot put, however, was nothing new to her, because she began the practice at age 16, Price recalled.

Assisting her with getting more “mileage” per throw was Jamie Gordon, 45, of East Palestine, who also found the social aspect of Saturday’s events to his liking.

“I wanted to show her how to do it the right way,” Gordon, who also competed in the 100-meter run and the 4-by-4 relay team, said, adding, “It’s awesome being here and to see all the new people.”

Also likely to be a lasting memory for Gordon was his participation last June in a state Special Olympics competition in Columbus, he said.

“It’s a wonderful day for all of our athletes here,” Girard City Schools Superintendent Bryan O’Hara said. “It gives them a chance to shine; this is their day in the sun each year. Everyone has something to contribute.”

O’Hara’s son, Noah O’Hara, 20, also competed in the Special Olympics each of his four high school years, the elder O’Hara added.

Mayor Mark Zuppo praised the power of sports to allow participants to discover new skills and avenues for success in life – regardless of one’s talent level. In addition, sports can be a means to bridge gaps and bring people together, he said.

“We must pledge to overcome the fear of differences and replace it with the power of inclusion,” Zuppo added.

Special Olympics is committed to offering year-round sports training and athletic competitions in a variety of Olympic-style sports for children and adults with intellectual challenges and special needs. The primary goal is to provide opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and take part in sharing their gifts, skills and friendship with their families, fellow athletes and communities, according to its mission statement.

The event’s founding sponsors are the Girard-Liberty Rotary Club, Fairhaven Special Olympics and the Girard City School District.

Saturday’s Special Olympics gathering also was in memory of Randy Suchanek, former Girard-Liberty Rotary Club president and Special Olympics’ co-founder.


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