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Special Olympians, high school athletes compete in area track meet

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- Rain showers on Saturday did not stop a group of talented athletes from competing in an area track meet.

Special Olympians and track teams from high schools in LaPorte, Goshen, South Bend and many others, got together for the long run. Together for the Long Run is a unified track meet event featuring the two groups to show the community “can’t’s” can be turned into “can’s.”

“I wanted to be able to do something where anyone’s told they can’t do something can come and show all there amazing talents and abilities,” said Cat Edmonds, founder of Together for the Long Run.

Edmonds started the event when she was a senior in high school and is celebrating the event’s third year on Saturday.

“They’re all having a dance party on the field,” she said. “They’re all laughing, and high school students are here just to have fun but in the sense they’re also volunteering which is just a special point.”

Close to 200 high schoolers and special Olympians were a part of Saturday’s event at St. Joseph High School’s Leighton Stadium. Andy Williams was one of the many athletes who participated in 50-and-100 yard dash events.

“I just do it for the Special Olympics, because I just want to be the inspiration when someone looks up to me and they say, ‘Hey, there’s that guy that runs fast I want to be like him one day,’” Williams said.

Some of Williams’ friends asked him to go slow in their races so they could try and beat him, but he said it’s not about winning.

“It’s just that the athletes do the best they can and no matter if they finish first or they finish last,” said Kay Schlemmer, mother of a Special Olympian. “It doesn’t matter because they were able to finish.”

Schlemmer’s son Shawn has been competing in the Special Olympics for nine years. She said the organization has helped her son with self-esteem and gain many friends.

“It’s life changing,” she said.

Events included races, shot put, and even, corn hole competitions. Every event was open to athletes of all abilities to compete.

“I just want the other athletes just to push themselves to the limit,” said Williams.

Saturday’s top performers will qualify for the state finals for athletes  of all abilities.

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