ADA — Ada High School, the home of famed and much-decorated athletes through the decades, claimed yet another first at Wednesday’s running of the Special Olympics at the practice field of the Craig McBroom Football Complex — a pentathlete.

Junior Josh Caudill decided to enter the five-event array of running, throwing and jumping, then went into training with the watchful eye of AHS senior Jorge Soto.

Along with 12 other Ada Special Olympians and 354 athletes from 32 other schools in the Fun Country Special Olympics area, Caudill started off the day with a shot putt salvo, then scurried over to the high jump and long jump pits for competition in those events. Along with the other two athletes in that competition, an extremely athletic duo from Ardmore, the Cougar pentathlete had trouble keeping up, but summoned every ounce of courage to further the competition.

After a break for lunch, the 100-meter dash was next, and Soto and adult supervisor and long-time Special Olympics supporter Harold Muse had Caudill in top form. Then came the most gruelling event, the 400-meter run. Caudill, the son of Nancy and Glenn James, was an inspiration for all competitors as he quickly zipped to the head of the class and held first until running out of gas at the midway point. He finished the race, however, sailing in behind the Ardmore racers.

Soto was proud of his charge, who improved his personal bests in all five events.

“Josh worked real hard to get ready for the Special Olympics. He said he wanted to try it and Coach Donna Cox asked me if I would volunteer to help him. It has been a lot of fun and I am very proud of him,” Soto said. Muse, who also with wife Gloria is Fun Country Special Olympics director, echoed those comments.

No worse for the wear except for a bit of a sunburn, the following day Caudill vowed to stay in training for next year.

“It was a lot of hard work, but it was fun and I am proud I did it,” Caudill said.

Each year Special Olympics recognizes athletes, volunteers, and coaches for their involvement and achievements in Special Olympics.

Ada’s Meagan May won the spirit award for being a wonderful competitor and encouraging others to do their best. She always has a great attitude and smile on her face. When competing, she said Special Olympics is fun, according to Coach Cox. She is a senior and will compete at the state Special Olympics meet in May at Oklahoma State University. She has been involved in Special Olympics for 12 years.

Byng’s Amanda Cockrill won Special Olympics Athlete of the Year.

Ada senior Jessica Turner’s family won Family of the Year award in Special Olympics. She has been involved in Special Olympics for 12 years. Her mother and father, Freda and Jimmy Turner, have been involved in Special Olympics for a long time as volunteers and parents.

The parents have seen the joy in Jessica’s eyes when competing in Special Olympics and they are so very proud of all her efforts. To them, Special Olympics has helped make their daughter a better person today.

Cox received the Special Olympics Coach of the Year for the past 29 years of service. She has taught and coached at Ada for 25 years. She first became involved in special Olympics in 1972 while finishing her masters at East Central. Since that time, she has volunteered to run the female softball throw. She has also had the privilege of coaching hundreds of Special Olympics athlete?s in the Ada schools system. She has also taken athletes to the Sate Special Olympics in Stillwater.

Every day she is amazed at what her special needs athletes can accomplish.

“The joy of seeing their faces and the challenges they overcome is worth all the time and effort I spend with them. It makes me proud to see my athletes succeed. I’m a better person for it, and so are they,” Cox said.

Jane Baltimore, special programs director for Ada City Schools, said each school brought a cadre of coaches and counselors to help run the meet. Many volunteers from the community as well as Ada High students helped Cox and AHS head track coach Mart Leming run the meet with few hitches.

From here, the qualifiers head to Oklahoma State in Stillwater for the State Special Olympics May 10-12. The national competition is July 2-7 at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. There are programs in all 50 states and more than 1.7 million participants in more than 150 countries. The program is operated by Special Olympics Inc., a non-profit organization located in Washington, D.C.

It is the mission of the Special Olympics to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities (mental retardation,) giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

Special Olympics goal is for all persons with intellectual disabilities to have the opportunity to become useful and productive citizens who are accepted and respected by their families,friends and in their communities. The athletes carry the benefits from their involvement with them in their daily lives at home, in the classroom, on the job and in the community. Families are strengthened and the community increases its understanding, acceptance and respect of these individuals.

The five goals strived for are (1) physical, social and psychological development, (2) improved physical fitness and motor skills, (3) greater self-confidence, (4) positive self-image, and, (5) friendships and increased family support.

The Special Olympics was founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver and was created in 1968 by the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation. The first International Special Olympics Games were held in 1968 at Soldier Field in Chicago.