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Special Olympics athletes and their buddies line up at the start of the 50-meter sprint during the “Meet in the Middle” held at Butler Stadium Saturday. Boys and girls of all ages and ability levels participated in the noncompetitive event, with all earning a dog tag-style medal and a snow cone at the end of the morning.

Photo by Eve A. Baker

Special Olympics’ ‘Meet in the Middle’ held at Butler Stadium

23 Apr 2015 | Eve A. Baker Marine Corps Base Quantico

Dozens of athletes turned out at Butler Stadium during Saturday’s brilliant sunshine and warm spring weather for Special Olympics Virginia’s “Meet in the Middle.” Carrying out the torch for the opening ceremony was David, 8; Base Commander Col. David Maxwell; and Rick Jeffrey, president of Special Olympics Virginia.

The “recreational readiness event” was noncompetitive and open to boys and girls of all ages and ability levels, said Jeffrey. The idea was to get young people together for a fun, laid-back athletic event and give them the taste of an organized sporting event.

Twins Jordyn and Janaya, 7, participated in all the events and had a great time, said their mother, Master Gunnery Sgt. Shalanda Raynor, the staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of Combat Camera. The events at the meet included 50-meter and 25-meter sprints, a shuttle run, an obstacle course, a soccer ball kick, both a long jump and triple jump, and a beanbag toss.

For the sprint races, many of the athletes were partnered with a buddy who ran with them down the track, cheering them on. Buddies also directed the athletes through the obstacle course, helping them literally jump through hoops — a series of hula hoops on the ground — among other obstacles.

Sixty athletes took part in the event, which was spearheaded by Monique O’Neil, program manager for the Exceptional Family Member Program. O’Neil said she could not have done it without the help of her staff and the 140 volunteers made the morning possible. The Quantico Middle/High School Junior ROTC presented colors, and the members helped out with all the sporting events. Family members of the athletes also assisted with the events, and additional help came from units aboard the base, including the Marine Corps Network Operations and Security Center, Headquarters and Service Battalion, Naval Health Clinic Quantico and Marine Corps Combat Development Command. Other groups that volunteered their time and talent included the Quantico Knights of Columbus chapter, 2nd to None Track and Field Club of Fredericksburg, the Special Olympics Cheer Team of Northern Virginia and Quantico Ladies Night Out.

— Writer: ebaker@quanticosentryonline.com