Jason Christine, Joanne DeMartino and Lisa Greenlee contributed to this story.
Special Olympics Cedar Cliff style April 2 at the West Shore Stadium was deemed to be INCREDIBLE! Paraprofessional Lisa Greenlee said that coordinator Jason Christine and his helpers set out on a mission to make the WSSD style Olympics successful. “They more than met expectations.” JoAnne DeMartino’s 5th period Sports Leadership class officiated. “Sports Leadership classes run the entire track meet,” DeMartino said. “From announcing the events, organizing the bullpen, timing races, awarding ribbons, measuring and running field events, recording scores, they do it all.”
The day begins at 7:45 AM with Sports Leadership organizing the track and setting up equipment. The event itself ran from 9:30 a.m. until approx. 1:30 p.m. “Kids start arriving from all over the district and then they parade down the track, take the oath and our announcer opens the games...just like in the real Olympics.”
A parade of athletes and their buddies provided by Donna Ball’s Cedar Cliff Friends Forever Club and Paige Bodenschatz and Tonya Resto’s Friendship Club opened the ceremonies, marching on the West Shore Stadium track with pompoms and banners, waving to the crowd of cheering fans. The Cedar Cliff JROTC proudly sported the colors while senior Gia Koustokoskis brought tears to the eyes of the audience during her rendition of the National Anthem. State Representative Sheryl Delozier led in the Pledge of Allegiance and then encouraged the students to do their best and cheer for their friends. Greenlee said from start to finish that DeMartino’s students made sure the entire Olympics kept on time, started races, kept timers, made announcements, kept logs and wrote out all the ribbons and awards. They measured long jumps and shotput distances. They even organized outdoor play games like hula hoop and ladder ball for the athletes to enjoy between their events.
The parents sign the students up for events in the Special Olympics. Because many kids only do one or two events, Christine, Special Olympics Coordinator, created the "Olympic Village" in which activities are set up to entertain the kids while they wait. Some years, the events include tag, flag football, cheerleaders teaching a dance routine. “They just play together,” DeMartino said. “And it is fun to watch kids from all over the district, all ages and abilities just having fun playing together.”
Events included the 100m walk (popular); 100m run (popular); 50m walk (popular); 50m run; 25m wheelchair; 50m wheelchair slalom; 200m run; and the 400m run. Field Events Included softball throw, shot put, long jump, standing long jump, and high jump.
After a lunch of hot dogs, cookies, chips, and drinks, the Sports Leadership Class incorporated everyone and enjoyed a really fun game of kickball. “Lunch for all the buddies, athletes and staff was prepared by the JROTC cadets “who once again brought their A game,” Greenlee said. Right on schedule the Sports Leadership Class got back to work, cleared the infield, and went back to the final races. “These students were absolutely amazing, taking the complete reins of every event.”
Not only did they run the games, but they competed with them as well. “Danny Sigue ran the 200M and 400M just so one of the athletes had a competitor.” DeMartino said Jael Johnson actually carried a kid 45 of the 50 meters. “The little guy didn't want to put his feet down...until he got to the finish line; then he couldn't stop jumping around. It was cute,” DeMartino said. The Cedar Cliff Football team dispersed all the awards, helping each of the athletes climb the award podium so teachers and parents could take pictures.
The WSSD Special Olympics is a qualifier for the Area M Special Olympics held at Messiah College. “At Messiah the rules are very strict. If a student faults on the start, they are disqualified just like in a real track meet,” DeMartino said. “The WSSD meet is a time to help teach the kids what to do. “
DeMartino said she prepares her Sports Leadership kids by telling them to treat the day like it is the (biggest sister school rivalry) Red Land vs. Cedar Cliff or championship game they've ever played in. “I want them to remember how excited they were all week leading up to the day.” She wants them to remember how stressed they were and the memories they took away from that event. “That's exactly what it's like for our participants at the (Special Olympics) track meet. This is their RL vs. CC excitement. This is their championship.”