AMES - Area Special Olympians had the opportunity to show their skills and determination as they competed in the State Summer Special Olympic Games on the campus of Iowa State University Friday.
More than 175 participants from several area schools and organizations participated in track and field events at the Leid Recreation Center as their teaches, classmates and families cheered them on.
For Andy and Valerie Williams and their daughter Marissa Williams, of Eagle Grove, it was a proud day as they traveled to Ames to cheer on their son and brother, Mason Williams, who participated in the 100-meter walk, in which he has qualified for state several times. Andy Williams said his son had an extra challenge to face this year, but still came out on top.
-Messenger photo by Emilie Nelson
Jen Conaway, Eagle Grove Special Olympics coach, looks at a few pictures of participants in their events with Lance Hennigar during a break in activity at the state summer games in Ames Friday afternoon.
"He just had surgery on his legs about a month ago, but he still made it," said Williams.
Mason Williams' determination paid off as he crossed the finish line, taking home a gold medal.
Williams' teammate, Lance Hennigar, 10, of Eagle Grove, was participating in the state games for the first time as a qualifier in the 50-meter dash. For Hennigar, just a mention of his state qualification was enough to bring a beaming smile to his face.
"He's really excited. This is his first time participating," said his coach Jen Conaway.
Hennigar nodded and smiled in agreement, but it was when he took gold in his heat that his competitive spirit began to shine through.
"I won," Hennigar said as he high-fived his coaches. "I beat everybody."
Fort Dodge Community Schools qualified 38 students from elementary through adult, with many representatives being regulars at the state meet.
Dan Brown, a special education teacher and Special Olympics coach at Fort Dodge Senior High, brought three of his students, Wolfgang Dillingham, William Smith and Josh Bedwell. Both Bedwell and Dillingham received gold medals for their running, while Smith took silver in the softball throw.
It was easy for Smith to decide what the highlight of his day was.
"Winning," he said.
While Dillingham enjoyed running in his race, he enjoyed the activities that followed best.
"I like the games," he said.
Brown said he was proud of his students' accomplishments for the day.
"It's just a fun day for them," he said. "But we're three for three with medals, so we're happy."
Friends and teammates Hannah Stanley and Katelynn Lindner both took third in their heats of the 50-meter dash, bringing home bronze medals to boast their accomplishments.
Lindner said she is no stranger to the summer games, having qualified for the past few years.
"I got the gold last year," Lindner said.
She said it was more of a challenge this year because she participated in an older age group.
"They got faster this time,"she said. "But I love running. I run with my dog at home a lot."
T.J. Williams qualified for state for the first time this year as a member of the Fair Oaks Middle School team. He received a silver medal in the 50-meter run.
"I'm so proud of him," said his mother, Judy Williams, her eyes filling with tears as she hugged her son. "So proud I could cry."
Contact Emilie Nelson at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org