Courtesy photo Christa Haege winds up to throw the softball during the Special STARS track and field event in Wauchula on Dec. 1.
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published: Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Special STARS athletes experience track and field
Special to the News-Sun
WAUCHULA - Hardee County adult athletes with disabilities participated in a track and field event organized by Special STARS on Dec. 1 at the Hardee County School Board stadium.
There were approximately 40 athletes with various disabilities experiencing several track and field events. This event was designed to introduce track and field to Hardee County athletes.
"The purpose of this event today was to demonstrate that everyone can participate in track and field no matter what their abilities are," said Special STARS Coordinator Cindy Marshall. "It taught the volunteers to think outside the box and find a way to help an athlete to participate. Athletes don't have to be sprint runners to do track in field in Special STARS. We just want them to get out in the sunshine and get some exercise."
They first competed in a softball throw. For those who were unable to throw the softball, they threw a tennis ball. They each got three throws which were measured. Kevin Wyche had the best throw at 95 feet, 4 inches.
"I think we got some potential for a good softball team," Hardee County Special STARS Director Missy Ziegler said.
The rest of the athletes took their turn to try to beat Wyche.
"Back way up because I am going to throw it far," special athlete Jessie Miranda warned the volunteers during the event.
"I did it," screamed Special STARS athlete Christa Haege as she threw the ball.
Athletes then headed for the track. Events were set up for athletes to either walk, run or be pushed in wheelchairs for 50 yards. One athlete who is visually impaired was really excited when he learned that he would be able walk down the track on his own.
"I can't wait to try this," said special athlete Kenneth Krantz.
At first he was a little skeptical but after volunteers gave him a test run he felt reassured that he could handle it. A rope was strung from the starting line to the finish line for the 50-yard walk. The rope was threaded through a piece of PVC pipe which is what Krantz held onto as he guided it down the rope.
The crowd cheered for him as he walked down the track guiding the PVC pipe to the end where he heard familiar voices coaxing him. He felt empowered to be able to do the event all on his own.
Although Krantz was not the fastest racer on the track, he finished the walk with a smile and did it in 1:59.32. Wyche was the fastest runner by finishing the race in 5.10 seconds while Jack Garnett was right behind him with a 5.67. The fastest time for walking was recorded by Gloria Himelright at 11.38.
There were four athletes in wheelchairs who recruited able bodied athletes to push them in a race. Even those who were unstable in walking were able to have a volunteer walk beside them for balance to complete the race.
Special STARS in Hardee County started in June with bowling. Track and field will be added next year for the adults in hopes they will advance to a district competition in Highlands County. STARS has been active in Highlands for eight years. Ziegler worked with approximately 15 school students in Hardee County on the same track and field skills.
In Special STARS, the athletes are divisioned according to their abilities. All athletes participate for free and win awards.
Special STARS (Sports Training And Recreational Services) is a program for adults and children with physical and mental disabilities. Currently, Hardee offers bowling and will be adding a track and field program. Swimming may also be added next year. There is also a social recreational club offered by Special STARS for those who want to enjoy dances and other fun events.
To learn more about the program, contact Ziegler at (863) 445-0407 or Marshall at (863) 452-1295, ext. 124. Applications are available for athletes and volunteers are always needed as well as donations.
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