BRUNSWICK — Audrey Jackson, wearing blue sunglasses and pink sneakers, was all smiles Thursday as she made her way down the track at the Brunswick Auto Mart Stadium.
The sixth-grader from Brunswick’s Willetts Middle School was competing in a 100-meter race with the help of her teacher, Emily White. It was a sight that repeated throughout the day with athletes taking to the field with special helpers as Brunswick Schools hosted the Special Olympics event.
“This is the fourth year for the Medina County track and field event and this is the second year it’s been at Brunswick,” said Amy Rutledge, the district’s spokeswoman.
The event took place at Cloverleaf High School the first two years and the plan is to try and rotate to different schools throughout the county every few years. The event started in response to what other counties were already doing, Rutledge said.
“If you look at other counties, they have a track and field day like this for students. Medina County did not,” she said. “There was a need.”
The event prepares athletes for the 37th annual Medina County Invitational on Saturday, June 1, when more than 300 athletes will compete in tennis, track and field, bocce ball, volleyball and power lifting at Medina High School.
The day is also a win for peer students who get a chance to buddy up with an athlete.
“One of the things that are really great that they’ve done recently is the buddies here,” said Tad Fitch, assistant director of Student Services. “Some of the students throughout the school pair up with some of the students that do this. It gives them somebody to train with.”
Teachers helped out with a few of the students, but mainly the work went to high school students eager to cheer athletes to victory.
“I was in the peer-coaching class at Medina High School helping out the special needs students and they asked me to do it,” said Maya Shirey, a senior from Medina High School. “I love getting to see the little kids run. It’s so cute.”
Her buddy was Fiona Moore, a ninth-grader from Medina High School. They sat together on the track with other Medina students eating lunch. When asked about her favorite part of the event was, she paused and smiled.
“Well, she’s excited to get her face painted,” Shirey said of Fiona.
A big smile formed on Fiona’s face and she nodded in agreement.
The event is fun for the students, but it also provides a way for parents and teachers to see the athletes’ achievements. Students from other schools and parents filled the stadium.
“I love what the parents get to see,” said Kim Maruna, orientation and mobility specialist at Memorial Elementary School in Brunswick.
“The kids are excited and the parents enjoy it so much.
“It’s kids just being kids. That’s what’s nice about it.”