The Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Parade and state track and field competition in Tempe stirred the emotions of the Northern Gila County team members, their coaches and fans.
The parade, which was held May 1, began near Chapman Auto on Beeline and proceeded south on the highway.
"Accompanying the athletes were friends, families, volunteers and coaches," longtime SO coach Ruby Lane said.
The festive parade culminated for the athletes at the town limits. Participating law enforcement officers, however, continued the journey to Tempe and the campus of Arizona State University.
"They (the officers) were joined by others from around the state and entered ASU's Sun Angel stadium during the opening ceremonies for the summer games on May 2," Lane said. "After the opening ceremonies, there was a dance, which is the favorite part for most of the athletes."
In the three-day track and field competition, 20 SO athletes representing the Rim Country competed in long distance runs, sprints, race-walks, assisted walks, shot put and the softball throw.
The competition was the culmination of practices that begin in mid-February.
"We practiced two times a week, most took place at the high school except when the track was being resurfaced," Lane said. "When we couldn't practice at the high school we moved to Green Valley Park."
As a tune-up for the state meet, the team participated April 25 at the East Valley Area Meet held at Mesa High School.
Overall, the past season was a successful one for the athletes with several winning gold, silver and bronze medals.
"Some athletes received fourth- and fifth-place ribbons," Lane said.
Team members included Jacquelin Karrys, Becky Radimaker, Tiffany Slayman, Holly Smith, Misty Smith, Jaherr Smith, Chrissy Wiley, Melody Ditzhazy, Todd Orr, John Sexton, David Karras Gary Bonn, Travis Radimaker, Robbie Gable, Carl Davis, Jon Ditzhazy, David Frohme and Jon Agent.
Chris Phillips and Jenna Palandri were also team members but did not attend the state competition.
The Payson branch of the Special Olympics was formed in 1979 and is always looking to add to the sports it offers its athletes.
Only last year, a winter snowshoeing team was added and it has grown remarkably since then, local SO coordinator Becky Derwort said.
Volunteers are always needed for many different areas of the Special Olympics, she said. Volunteer positions include coach, fund-raiser or official.
For more information about the Arizona or Payson branches of the Special Olympics, visit www.soaz.org or contact Derwort at (928) 474-9142.