By Mikayla Kemp, OCT
PHOENIX, NY – Phoenix School District hosted the first Oswego County Olympiad at Phoenix High School on May 14.
Parents and families crowded the stands as exceptional children with a wide range of different disabilities flooded the sports arena to participate in the Olympiad events.
While some of these students have competed in Syracuse’s Olympiad in previous years, this is the first time that Oswego County has held its own event.
Superintendent of Phoenix School District Judy Belfield explaineds that “after last year’s Olympiad in CNS, our physical education teacher, Angie Neiss, was approached by a member of the CNS staff who had asked if Oswego County would be interested in holding our own event as theirs had grown so large.”
Belfield loved the idea and brought it forth to the other superintendents of the county school districts who also thought the idea was wonderful. Belfield then began planning and organizing the event.
“What could you not like about this event? All those students marching in with their big smiles, cheering!” said Belfield.
The OCO, Oswego County Olympiad, was staffed entirely by Phoenix School District staff wearing OCO volunteer shirts, Phoenix National Honor Society students wearing tie-dyed NHS shirts, and various volunteers, including staff from all school districts represented.
Everything for the event was purchased by the many donations from sponsors.
“This is a true community event, with our volunteers, donators, and school districts involved,” said Belfield.
All school districts of Oswego County, including Oswego County CiTi, were represented in the Olympiad, making the grand total of athletes more than 320.
“We were expecting about 200 students,” said Belfield. “So we are just thrilled with this outcome.”
The students were truly made to feel like star athletes from arrival all the way to closing.
Getting off their buses, students were greeted by OCO volunteer and district employee, Joanna Young playing bagpipes.
National Honor Society students lined the walkway to cheer and high-five students and Syracuse Chiefs mascot, Scooch, as well as Phoenix’s Firebird mascot awaited the students as well.
The athletes lined the track to be announced for the opening ceremony parade.
Two special guests headed the parade, Ashlyn Wallace and Colin Gooley.
Wallace attended the event as Phoenix school district sixth grade pageant winner with Asperger’s.
In March, Wallace traveled to NYC on Broadway where she won the title of 2015 Miss Amazing Pre-Teen Queen.
She will travel to Los Angeles, Calif., in July to compete in the national pageant.
This trip will require a considerable amount of money in which donations are able to be made on a GoFundMe.com account through her Facebook fan page or at a fundraiser dinner on July 7.
Gooley led the parade alongside Wallace. Gooley is a member of the USA Sled Hockey Developmental Team.
In his opening speech, Gooley shared his story of rare bone cancer in his childhood that caused him to lose his leg to amputation.
“I never thought I’d be able to play sports again,” Gooley said. “Getting a new leg and going through physical therapy I was introduced to sled hockey which allowed me the opportunity to stay active. Now every time I step on the ice, or sit rather, I feel like I can do anything. That’s what I hope for today’s athletes, to know that you can do anything, live your life without limitations.”
And with those inspiring words, Ethan Remington, Phoenix Middle School student sang the National Anthem to kick off the event.
Athletes competed in a variety of events including 50-, 100-, and 200-meter race, shot-put, long jump, standing jump, wheelchair races, softball throw, football toss, parachute games, basketball, bowling, soccer, and more.
Second grade APW student Cal Seckner said, “The running was my favorite part, I got a blue ribbon.”
Logan Diefenbacher of G. Ray Bodley High School in Fulton competed in the shot put, the softball throw and the 200m run. His favorite event was shot put.
He also really enjoyed rooting on the younger kids as they ran.
“It’s great, the kids are happy and it really makes them feel good,” said Diefenbacher’s mother, Sherri.
The athletes were offered donuts provided free of charge by Shelby’s Donuts of Bryne Dairy in Baldwinsville, Gatorade, water, snow cones, cotton candy, face painting, and ribbons.
Fulton kindergartner Nickelson Rojas-Vega took advantage of the face-painting by getting his favorite, superhero on his face, Batman.
He also enjoyed the donuts and the events, running and jumping.
Parents and families were welcome as well, with the concession stand available for their indulgence.
Louise Bara attended to watch her 11-year-old granddaughter participate.
Sixth grade Phoenix student Patricia Lamach competed in the 50- and 100-meter races, softball throw and standing broad jump.
Although Lamach participated in last year’s Olympiad in CNS, Bara found this event to keep the athletes “closer together.”
“It’s so amazing to have these events. All the staff is so enthusiastic and supportive of the students” said Bara.
Patricia Lamach’s mother, Linda Lamach, is an employee of Central Square School District.
While working the event and attending as an athlete’s mother, Linda Lamach was pleased with the event overall.
“The energy is much higher here than other Olympiad’s we have been too,” she said. “The volunteers are very friendly, inclusive and have such great energy. The only downside I’ve seen is the arrival. Directing the buses upon arrival was not very clear.”
Belfield agreed, adding that “everything has run smoothly so far. The only exception would be coordinating the arrivals of high school and elementary buses from the same district so there would be no waiting.”
Planning will get under way with the opportunity to fix these downfalls at next year’s Oswego County Olympiad.