Special Olympics comes to U campus

More than 1,100 athletes descended upon Bierman Track and Field Complex last week.

Jamie VanGeest

In the 9 a.m. long jump competition, seven athletes competed for the gold medal.

With the qualifying jumps for the athletes ranging between 2.83 meters and 3.2 meters, Noah Reedy said he was unsure of who would win.

With a look of determination in his eyes, he ran down the track and sent sand flying into the air as his feet hit the ground.

Reedy, representing the St. Croix Valley Lumberjacks, got first place in the running long jump heat last week.

He was one of more than 1,100 athletes to descend upon Bierman Track and Field Complex last week for the Special Olympics Minnesota’s 2005 Summer Games, an athletics competition for people with physical and developmental disabilities.

Reedy trained for the long jump and three other events since April, coach Karen Crotty said.

Judi Wahl, former communications director of Special Olympics Minnesota, said the Minnesota Special Olympics have been held at Bierman Track and Field Complex since 1991.

“We’ve enjoyed having the Special Olympics at the University of Minnesota because it is centrally located, and the administration has always been easy to work with,” Wahl said.

University students played a part by volunteering for this year’s events.

In one booth, University athletes signed posters and T-shirts for the athletes. Gophers hockey player Tyler Hirsch played the dual role of autographer and volunteer at the booth’s dunk tank.

Justin Deans, a neuroscience student, volunteered as an EMT through University Emergency Medical Services.

“I wanted to help out at a fun event. It’s rewarding and the people there are nice and appreciative,” Deans said.

Between the athletes’ competitions, they relaxed and had fun in Olympic Town, an area behind the track where athletes could relax with food booths and games. They could sing to Britney Spears’ songs in the karaoke tent or dance with Vikings cheerleaders in the music tent.

Reedy said his favorite Olympic Town activity was getting autographs from the Vikings cheerleaders.

Volunteers operated carnival games such as remote-control cars and a dunk tank, and participants snacked on free ice cream and popsicles from the Schwan Food Company.

Athletes went to Healthy Athlete Village for free health screenings on everything from teeth to feet.

Crotty said Reedy received a free pair of prescription sunglasses after having his eyes checked at the Opening Eyes section of the village.

Besides Crotty, Reedy’s parents, LaVonne Reedy and Hank Reedy, were team coaches also.

“We are very proud of Noah, and we are sold on Special Olympics,” Hank Reedy said.

Noah Reedy’s first-place finish qualified him for the 2006 National Special Olympics U.S. Summer Games in Ames, Iowa, and the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai, China.