Sunshine and smiles abound at DuBois/Jefferson Special Olympics Track & Field Experience

Zak Lantz

DUBOIS — Students from the Punxsutawney Area School District were joined by those from the Brookville, Brockway and DuBois districts, as well as Soaring Heights Academy, New Story, Merakey and Fayette Resources — plus a number of community members — for the 2019 Special Olympics Track and Field Experience on Wednesday at Mansell Stadium in DuBois.

While the early-week forecast was a bit questionable, with a chance of rain showing for each day, the skies were clear and the sun was shining down upon the annual event, which has been taking part and bringing smiles to the faces of all involved since the late 1970s.

The day began with the opening ceremonies, which included welcoming remarks, the Parade of Athletes and the symbolic lighting of the torch. Then, the athletes participated as they were able to in three categories of events — throws (softball throw or turbo jav), races (from 25 to 200 meters) and jumps (standing or running long jump).

"These kids look forward to this event at the end of their school year as a culminating activity to kick off the summer, and they love to compete," said Frank Hetrick, Special Olympics volunteer and the emcee for the day's events. "This year, we probably had more spectators than we've ever had, and the middle school was really cooperative in having a lot of their kids come out and watch. That's a great motivation for these kids, and we're very thankful for that. We're thankful for the beautiful weather, too. Every year is special, and everybody did a great job; we couldn't do it without all the great volunteers, and we're just so thankful."

PHOTOS: On Thursday, the DuBois/Jefferson Special Olympics Track and Field Experience began with the Parade of Athletes, which included (first photo) Punxsutawney’s Elementary Life Skills 3-6 class and its banner carriers (from left) Jason Strawcutter, Rayleigh Iannacchione, Anna Poling and Riley Mills, along with teacher Jen Gable. (Second photo) Also participating in the opening ceremonies was Punxsy’s Dustin Gardner, who was the district’s representative in the torch-lighting lap. (Third photo) Once the action got underway, one of Punxsy’s first participants to take action was Sean Stick in the turbo jav. Also pictured here competing on behalf of Punxsy are George Adams in the turbo jav (fourth photo), Ryan Filitske in the 200-meter run (fifth photo) and Lacey Swartz in the running long jump (sixth photo). For more photos from the Track and Field Experience, see Thursday's print edition of The Punxsutawney Spirit.