Athletes compete in Area 7 Special Olympics games
NATCHEZ — With one second-place ribbon already pinned to her coat, Rykeria Rice pushed her wheelchair through a thin line of blue tape to cross the finish line a first-place champion.
The victory, and additional ribbon, was just part of the reason Rice had a smile from ear to ear Friday morning as she and other athletes competed in the Area 7 Special Olympics games at the Natchez High School track.
Another reason for Rice’s wide smile was having her father, Jarrius Rice, alongside her as she competed in two events — the tennis ball throw and the 25-meter wheelchair race.
“I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” Jarrius Rice said. “I think having family and friends here gives her, and all these kids, more encouragement.”
Rykeria’s second-place ribbon came from the tennis ball throw, where she hurled the ball 3 meters and 80 centimeters onto the NHS football field.
And as the Morgantown Middle School eighth-grade student continued watching her fellow athletes compete in the events, the two ribbons on Rykeria’s coat gave her a confidence boost her father quickly noticed.
“I was joking with her saying, ‘You think you’re bad because of those ribbons, huh?’” Jarrius Rice said, laughing. “She enjoys this so much, and I know her and everyone else here appreciates them doing this.”
Area 7 Special Olympics Director Tommie Jones said seeing Rykeria’s smile as she crossed the finish line is exactly why the event exists.
“It’s something about that smile that just does something to your heart,” Jones said. “Anything we can do to help build these kids’ self-esteem and make them feel like a part of everyone’s world is worth it.”
Friday’s event featured athletes from the Wilkinson County School District, Jefferson County School District, Natchez High School, Morgantown Middle School and Frazier Elementary School.
Events included the 100-meter dash, 50-meter dash, 25-meter wheel chair race, 100-meter walk, 100-meter assisted walk, long jump, tennis ball throw and softball throw.