191101 SPECIAL OLYMPICS1

High fives are given on Friday as students march down the halls of Florence High School enroute to the Special Olympics competition in Muscle Shoals. [CAROLINE OGLEBSY/ TIMESDAILY]

MUSCLE SHOALS — Special Olympians from throughout Colbert, Franklin and Lauderdale counties shined as brightly as the sun on Friday as they competed in track and field events.

From the parade of schools into James F. Moore Stadium in Muscle Shoals, to the law enforcement torch run entrance and the lighting of the Olympic flame, the excited crowd didn't let the chilly temperatures deter its enthusiasm.

In fact, organizers said the weather brought out the smiles and put a little extra pep in the step of athletes. 

"I felt really good throwing the shot put," said Hatton fifth grader Drew Hogan, who beamed from atop the podium with his first-place ribbon displayed proudly on his shirt. "I lined myself up and threw it as far as I could. It really went a long ways."

His teammate, fourth grader Joseph Ledlow, took second place.

"I just love it here," he said of the competition.

Tavion Barnett, a ninth grader from Florence, said his goal for Friday was to run like the wind and throw the shot put as far as he could.

In the end, his strategy paid off as he topped the podium with first-place ribbons.

"I lift weights to get strong and I'm a fast runner," he said. 

The local Special Olympics track and field games, as well as earlier events including swimming and bowling, are prerequisites for the State Special Olympics in the spring of 2020.

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