COVINGTON, Ga. — Some Newton County students competed for awards in an annual track and field meet this week.
Many of them, though, needed a little help getting to the starting line — but were cheered every step of the way by volunteers young and old.
Newton County Special Olympics’ annual Spring Games featured hundreds of participants in track and field events over three days at Sharp Stadium in Covington.
Veterans Memorial Middle School student Christian Watkins basked in the glory of winning his 50-meter dash as his name was called over the stadium’s public address system.
He stood at the top of a dais set up on a corner of the football field as his mother, Alicia Marston, cheered him on and hugged him afterward.
Marston said the event has a special meaning for her son, who has Down syndrome.
“It means that he’s able to do something that regular kids are doing,” she said. “It makes him feel good about his participation and winning.”
She said he had been looking forward to the event because he loves competing.
“He loves track and field, he loves running,” she said.
These Spring Games were the first in three years. Newton County Special Olympics had hosted them annually before COVID prompted organizers to postpone them the past two years, said LaTrelle Cawthon, coordinator of the event and Newton County Special Olympics.
Middle and high school students and adult graduates from the county school system competed Tuesday, April 12. Elementary students from Flint Hill, Fairview, West Newton, Porterdale and Oak Hill Wednesday, April 13, followed by South Salem, Live Oak, Middle Ridge and East Newton on Thursday, April 14.
Running events proved popular, as did the softball throw. Volunteers from such organizations as Covington Fire Department cheered on all of their efforts as participants’ “buddies” helped many across the finish line or to make a toss.
Suzanne Griswold of Southeastern Psychological Associates stood with her therapy goat, Mulligan, for participants to meet and pet as they finished their events.
Participants also were treated to a petting zoo featuring rabbits, turtles and other animals hosted by Wildlife Critters Circle of Life Rehabilitation Center.
Rodney Johnson, father of a softball throw competitor, said his son, Aaron, had looked forward to the annual event since he began competing in middle school.
Aaron has cerebral palsy, which is a motor disability that affects a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture.
He was competing as an alumni after graduating from Eastside High School, his father said.
Rodney said Aaron also competes in Miracle League baseball games in Covington, as well.
“He loves competing,” Rodney Johnson said. “He looks forward to this every year.”