PRINCETON — The Starved Rock Area Special Olympics, hosted this Saturday at the Bureau County Fairgrounds, is expected to bring in around 86 athletes from 16 agencies around northern and central Illinois.
The district cross county ski and snowshoe competitions will kick-off shortly following a brief opening ceremony, to begin at 9:45 a.m.
Area Director Cheryl De Paepe has high hopes the weather holds up this year, and there will be just the right amount of snow for both competitions.
“Too much snow and ice makes traveling not good, and not enough snow forces us to cancel the cross country skiing. My hopes are to host a successful event, where everyone can get there and return home safety,” she said.
Some athletes will be coming from various areas in Bureau and LaSalle counties. Agencies include Gateway Services, Princeton High School, Tracey’s Boxer Club of Walnut and Horizon House of the Illinois Valley. Fellow athletes will be coming in from areas including Rockford, Galena, Monmouth and Springfield.
Athletes are encouraged to take part in physical training and exercising for their sport of choice about six to eight weeks prior to the competition. De Paepe said snowshoe competitors can practice all year long if they wish because snowshoes can be used on any type of ground. However, cross country skiers can really only practice the sport when snow is on the ground, but they still are able to do stretches and exercise activities indoors that help train them for competition.
“This is a great opportunity for participants in outdoor sports to learn skills and to keep up on their physical fitness,” De Paepe said. “Snow snowing and cross country are sports you can even do in the backyard with family or friends for enjoyment.”
Like the motto, De Paepe said Special Olympics competitions allow athletes to show what they can do with intellectual disabilities vs. what they cannot do.
“I’m just looking forward to running a good quality competition,” De Paepe said. “Just really hoping the weather cooperates with us this year.”
The gold medalist from both events will advance to the Illinois State Winter Games, which will be held on Feb. 4-6 at the Chestnut Mountain Resort in Galena.
Also on Saturday, Starved Rock Area athletes will be competing in the speed skate at Franklin Park. On Jan. 14, area athletes will be completing in the Alpine Skiing completion at Snow Star in Andalusia. The public is welcome to attend any Special Olympics event.
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