Benna Sayyed: Freedom New Mexico Special Olympics athletes help Melissa Richards, left, and Roxie Burgess, second from right, set up for Saturday’s awards dinner and dance, which included participants from Albuquerque, Lubbock and Portales.
Participants and volunteers at the state Special Olympics on Saturday in Clovis said the event is all about helping challenged citizens excel in sports and competition and enriching their life.
The event, which began in 1986, takes place on the third weekend of September every year. The competition was held at the Curry County Events Center.
This year’s event started Friday morning. Sporting events like track and field, basketball, golf, softball, and bowling gave participants ample opportunity to showcase their skills, but the focus was on the equestrian competition.
This contest has three performance and three speed events.
“I enjoyed all of the events. I’m ready to practice for next year,” said Clovis native Sherry Armstrong, who has been participating in Special Olympics New Mexico for 28 years.
Susan Eggers of Clovis has participated in the event for five years. She looks forward to training her horse, Blue, who exhibited unpleasant behavior this year.
“Next year will be better,” said Eggers with a loyal smile.
Performance events such as showmanship at halter, stock seat equitation and working trails, and speed events such as pole bending, barrel racing and figure eight stakes races, filled the weekend for competitors.
During showmanship at halter, equestrians are judged by how they move around the horse as they show it off. In the stock seat equitation, equestrians are judged on how accurately they complete tasks such as circling the horse and reversing as they ride.
Working trails is a course set up to determine how well riders maneuver around the different elements they encounter on the course.
Event organizers, athletes and volunteers develop a strong relationship with Clovis organizations such as the Elks, VFW, and the 21st Street Church of Christ, which help sponsor the event. ENMR Plateau Telecommunications and the Clovis Eagles are also sponsors.
“We have all of these wonderful organizations that step forward and prepare all of our meals for us, serve them to us and just really treat us like kings and queens,” said Roxie Burgess, equestrian sports director of New Mexico Special Olympics.
The event is free to the public. It does not raise money but sometimes receives donations from local organizations.
“We had a lot of donations given to us this year to help support the Special Olympics. It was just incredible,” said Melissa Richards, event volunteer.
“You fall in love with the athletes. They’re addicting; you just can’t stay away from them. It’s so genuine,” she said.