Student athletes showcase skills at Special Olympics event


By Kasie McCreary - [email protected]



Students prepare to compete in a modified version of the discus throw using frisbees. Great care is taken from staff to create events which give all students a chance to shine. Photo courtesy of Jessica Hoffer.

Students prepare to compete in a modified version of the discus throw using frisbees. Great care is taken from staff to create events which give all students a chance to shine. Photo courtesy of Jessica Hoffer.


Submitted photo

WEST PORTSMOUTH—Students from the Vern Riffe School (VRS) recently participated in the Special Olympics Track and Field Day after a long hiatus from the event.

Two years have passed since the student athletes of VRS were last able to gather for the field day due to COVID restrictions, but they were recently able to dust off their running shoes to showcase their skills at the Portsmouth West High School track.

Students were especially excited to be able to compete with friends from other local schools. Middle and high school students from multiple disability (MD) units across the county were welcomed to the event, for a total of nearly 80 participants.

“[The students] were really, really excited to get to go, and to participate. It’s such a fun day, and to have all of the other schools there for support…they’ve missed their friends, they miss seeing other people, and being able to actually spend time together,” explained Trish Schmidt, a Physical Therapist Assistant with VRS.

A parade of athletes around the track served as their opening ceremony, followed by athletic events. Schmidt explained that the events are tailored to the diverse needs of each student so that no athletes are left out of the action.

“Their favorite event is always the running. We modify [the events] depending on the needs of the students, but we did the 200, 100, and 50 meter [dash] races, and we also do races with children who are in specialty equipment; student assisted wheelchair races, student assisted walking races. Whatever [the student athletes] need, we make that happen,” she said.

Cindy Coriell, VRS’s Adaptive Physical Education Specialist, oversees modifying the events to meet students’ varying needs. “She is amazing to make those modifications. She does such a good job with all the events, and coming up with the ideas for them,” Schmidt said. “She deserves so much credit.”

For the first time since the event began, Schmidt said, the event was able to allow spectators to cheer on the athletes. Continued support from their friends, family, and community means a lot to the athletes, and to the staff who organize the event.

“[Students] all received a track and field medal, which was sponsored by Glockner this year. Mike Glockner came and actually presented those medals to all of the students at the end of their races. Glockner has offered to continue to sponsor [the event] every year, and [Mike’s] words exactly were, ‘it’s going to be even bigger and better.’”

For the student athletes, the event is less about taking home a medal, and about something much more valuable. Runner Zach Kigar, 17, of Sciotoville, was most excited to face off against his best friend, Brody Wyatt, in the 50 meter dash. But for Kigar and Wyatt, it didn’t matter who won or lost, as long as everyone had fun.

“I love being with my friends,” Kigar said. “There are so many people here. It’s a lot of fun.”

Schmidt said that the future of the event looks brighter all the time, with passionate staff and community sponsors working hard behind the scenes.

“We are going to start dreaming, and I’m not sure where those dreams will lead us, but they’re going to lead us somewhere,” Schmidt said.

For more information about the Vern Riffe School, visit them on the web at: sciotodd.org.

Students prepare to compete in a modified version of the discus throw using frisbees. Great care is taken from staff to create events which give all students a chance to shine. Photo courtesy of Jessica Hoffer.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/05/web1_Olympics1.jpgStudents prepare to compete in a modified version of the discus throw using frisbees. Great care is taken from staff to create events which give all students a chance to shine. Photo courtesy of Jessica Hoffer. Submitted photo

By Kasie McCreary

[email protected]

Reach Kasie McCreary at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931, or by email at [email protected]

© 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

Reach Kasie McCreary at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931, or by email at [email protected]

© 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved