Hundreds packed the field house at Lincoln-Way Central High School to participate in the 16th annual Lincoln-Way Central Special Games on Thursday, March 9, in New Lenox.
Athletes with special needs were each paired with a peer tutor from 12 area schools. Athletes competed in more than 10 events during the day.
Participants sought to claim the highly coveted spirit stick, which is awarded to the school with the most school spirit.
It all began with an opening ceremony featuring a parade of high school athletes including those from Andrew.
Following that, there was a carrying of the torch, presentation of the colors, singing of the national anthem and the returning of the spirit stick from last year’s winner. Lincoln-Way East. A mascot relay-race capped off the opening festivities, with Lincoln Way West taking the top honor.
At the conclusion of the opening ceremony, students took turns participating in various sporting events which included two indoor track races, bowling, a football toss, basketball free-throw shooting and more.
The Special Games aim to spur enthusiasm, sportsmanship and enjoyment among students.
More than 80 students from Andrew High School participated in the Special Games, which aims to spur enthusiasm, sportsmanship and enjoyment among the student-athletes.
This year the school donned blue to signify their team name, The Smurfs.
“The best part of it for me is the energy that you see here,” said Kelly Matusik, Andrew physical education teacher and a lead tutor. “The energy from everybody involved is just amazing. I love it.”
Senior Bailey McDowell agreed.
“It’s beautiful that everyone’s so helpful with their buddies,” she said.
McDowell rooted for junior Caitlin Lambrecht during the games.
Lambrecht competed in several events but her favorite was bowling.
Participant Anthony DeSantis, a sophomore, said seeing the level of school spirit showed by fellow classmates was nice to witness.
“It’s pretty big, but I’m not really surprised by it,” DeSantis said.
Tutor Paige Rivera, a junior, said she enjoyed cheering for DeSantis from the sidelines.
“He just took first in his 55-meter race,” Rivera said.
This year was Rivera’s first time taking part in the Special Games.
“The [community’s] support is amazing for Special [Games],” Rivera said. “Everyone’s so welcoming and like supportive to each student when they’re doing their race and activity. Everyone just cheers everyone on.”
The closing ceremony featured the presentation of awards for best overall relay race finisher awards, best spirit wall and the coveted spirit stick.
For the 200-meter relay race first place was awarded to Lincoln-Way East, with Lockport taking second.
Andrew took first place in the spirit wall awards, with Homewood-Flossmoor coming at second and Lincoln-Way East in third.
Lincoln-Way West took third place in the spirit stick award.
Special Education Director Cheryl Russell said win or lose the Special Games is a win-win for everyone.
“We have our peer tutors who work with our students with special needs,” she said. “They’re learning so much from their students, and for our students with special needs, they’re learning so much, as well, in terms of the social pieces and just how to have fun, be with there peers.”