Special Olympic Champions
by Allison Haver
Athletes competed in various events, including softball throw, bocce, track and field, aquatics and volleyball.
More than 125 athletes registered for Thursday's games and, despite chilly temperatures, almost all came out with their families and coaches to participate.
"I'm very happy that there have not been many scratches today," Keron Poteat with the Watauga County Parks and Recreation and coordinator of Watauga County's Special Olympics said. "With it being cold today, I was worried a lot of people would not be able to come out, but I'm happy with the turnout."
Highlights of the festivities included the opening ceremonies, which featured a parade of athletes, local law enforcement, military and medical personnel.
Special Olympic athlete Andrew Brian led the athletes' oath-taking ceremony. Brian said he has been a part of the games since he was a sophomore in high school and is a unified volleyball player.
During the ceremonies, Diane Brown was recognized for being this year's recipient of the Marilyn Award, which honors a teacher, coach or individual who consistently serves others.
The award is named in memory of Marilyn Sturgill, who offered her time, talents and energy on behalf of Watauga County Special Olympics.
Sturgill also coordinated the event in Watauga County for more than 14 years.
Poteat was also recognized for her hard work and dedication toward Special Olympics.
"Watauga County is very lucky to have Keron Poteat," David Scott, who emceed the ceremonies and also sang the national anthem, said.
"With Poteat in charge, everything gets done and runs smoothly, Roachel Laney, a professor at Appalachian State University and Special Olympics coach, said. "We got here at 7 a.m. this morning and everything was already taken care of."
Track and field athletes from ASU were present along with head coach John Weaver to help with the track and field events.
"I love being out here and seeing everyone out here having a good time," Poteat said. "These athletes look forward to this every year."
Poteat said opportunities are available for anyone wishing to volunteer, donate or assist in any way with the event.
For more information about Special Olympics Watauga County, call at (828) 264-9511.