William Byrd athletes to compete in Special Olympics meet

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Students from WBMS and WBHS will be participating in the Roanoke Valley Big Feet Meet, sponsored by Special Olympics, at William Fleming on September 26. They include (left to right): kneeling, Brandon Tuck, Kyle Montgomery, Cody Barker, and Nicholas Yakob; middle row, Christina Boyden, Garison St.Clair, Brandon Smith, Landon Gray, and Aryel Prillaman; and back row, Chase Kendall, Luke Barrett, Rashard Stovall, and Ethan Stohler.
William Byrd student Luke Barrett practices at the stadium for the Roanoke Valley Big Feet Meet.

Athletes from William Byrd Middle School and William Byrd High School have been preparing for the Roanoke Valley Big Feet Meet, hosted by Special Olympics, which will be held on September 26 at William Fleming High School

According to event organizers, about 350 middle and high school students and adult athletes from 39 schools and group homes in the Roanoke Valley will compete in track and field events. About 1,000 will attend, including the WFHS student body, teachers, coaches, families, and volunteers from the community.

The event is coordinated by Special Olympics VA-Area 8 and Roanoke City Schools and has been made possible through a grant from Special Olympics and the U.S. Department of Education and a generous sponsorship from Hall Community Services. The Roanoke Valley Area 8 region includes Botetourt, Craig, Franklin, Roanoke, and Salem.

For many years the event was held in the spring, but with inclement weather repeatedly postponing or canceling the event in recent years, the decision was made to move the event to fall.

The Big Feet Meet gets under way at 8:30 a.m. and concludes about 1 p.m.

Students from teacher Amanda Rupe’s class at the middle school along with WBHS students in Amy Boush’s classes will spend the day at William Fleming competing in running long jump, standing long jump, tennis ball throw, softball throw, shot put, running 100-meter, 200-meter, and 400-meter races, and assisted walking. Each student chooses two events to participate in. Awards are presented to the athletes after each event.

The athletes will be accompanied by their Student Ambassadors– chosen to attend by the Special Olympics athletes– generally buddies from their physical education classes or friends.

The WBMS students have been practicing for the events in their gym classes with gym teacher and coach Sara Boxler, who will be attending the games with them.  The high school students have been practicing with Boush.

Special Olympics athletes this year include Brandon Tuck, Kyle Montgomery, Cody Barker, Nicholas Yakob, Christina Boyden, Garison St. Clair, Brandon Smith, Landon Gray, Aryel Prillaman, Chase Kendall, Luke Barrett, Rashard Stovall, Jasmine St. Clair, Nicholas Sheaff-Rymer, Brandon Hyde, and Ethan Stohler.

Special Olympics will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2018. The organization was founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of President John F. Kennedy. The Special Olympics mission remains as vital today as it did when the movement was founded. Special Olympics strives to create a better world by fostering the acceptance and inclusion of all people.

Special Olympics takes as its mission “providing year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community. The transformative power of sports to instill confidence, improve health and inspire a sense of competition is at the core of what Special Olympics does.”

WBHS student Rashard Stovall has been competing in the Special Olympics Big Feet Meets since sixth grade. His two chosen events are the shot put and running. He says he participates to “get big and strong,” and because he likes to meet new people. He is also a member of the William Byrd track team.

Brandon Smith likes to run, but he also likes the atmosphere at the meets, which includes not just the athletic competition, but dancing all day to music played by a DJ, snacks and lunch, free T-shirts, lounging on blankets at the stadium between events, and lots of fun.

“Our athletes perform well each year and work really hard to prepare for the competitions,” said WBHS Principal Tammy Newcomb. “Our athletes make us proud!”

The Big Feet Meet on September 26 is free and open to the public. A rain date has been set for September 28.