Sunshine and clear skies greeted Special Olympics athletes on Friday as they arrived for the 9th Annual Melissa ISD Special Olympics Track Meet at Cardinal Stadium.
Over 300 athletes from area school districts were in attendance to compete. Delegations included Bland, Community, Denison, Grayson Co. Transition, Gunter MS, Love Joy, Melissa, Princeton HS, Pottsboro, Prosper, Sherman, Van Alstyne MS, and Whitewright.
Melissa cheerleaders and two Cardinal “Birdie” mascots welcomed the athletes into the stadium as they prepared for opening ceremonies.
Duke Sparks, Director of Community Outreach for Melissa Schools, led the opening ceremonies. The Melissa High School Choir sang the national anthem. Melissa athletes Xavier Tillis and Antonio Raymundo recited the Special Olympics Oath.
Sparks joined Melissa Mayor Reed Greer in declaring the meet officially open, signaling the start of the Parade of Athletes.
The Mighty Cardinal Band played the “Star Wars Theme” during the parade as each delegation was recognized. Delegations marched through the stadium behind banners held by students from the Melissa High School National Honor Society (NHS) and Melissa Middle School National Junior Honor Society (NJHS).
After a quick mascot race featuring two of Melissa’s “Birdie”, Princeton’s “Paige the Panther” and Sherman’s “Bearcat”, the track events began.
The Melissa Schools coaching staff and community volunteers ran the start and finish lines, while NHS and NJHS students escorted athletes to the award staging area to receive their medals.
Medals were awarded by Sargent Ed Dixon and officers Kevin Ripley and Jimmie Stanley from the Melissa Police Department, along with Detective Tina Malenfant and Detective Nolan Palmer from the McKinney Police Department.
Palmer is a Melissa resident and father of a special needs child with Angel Man’s Syndrom who will be eligible to participate in the Special Olympics when he turns six years old.
Sponsors for the meet included The LaCore Family, Mud Pies and Lullabies, and the McKinney Sports Connections. The Melissa Booster Club and the Church of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cooked, assembled, and distributed lunch for athletes, staff, P.E. partners, coaches, and volunteers.
Photos by Maddie Coe and Melissa High School students Layne Kemnitz and Leah Tyner.
Media Contact: Maddie Coe, Community Relations