Whitley brings home memories

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 25, 1999

It didn’t take long for Natchez High assistant football and track coach Wilbert Whitley to get into the spirit of things as an official at the Special Olympic World Games in North Carolina this summer.

&uot;When Billy Quick gave that opening oath of ‘Let me win, but if I don’t win let me be brave in the attempt,’ – that really stayed with me,&uot;&160;Whitley said.

Whitley, 38, is certified as a United States track officials at the national level.

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&uot;I’ve called a lot of national meets, so I sent out a questionnaire last year to help out with the Special Olympic Games,&uot; he said. &uot;I just decided to take a shot.&uot;

Whitley waited anxiously for a reply.

&uot;It was like going through an FBI investigation,&uot; he said. &uot;I had to document everything and they had to make sure I was certified.&uot;

Whitley found out last September he was selected.

&uot;It was almost the same feeling when I was picked to officiate at the state basketball tournament,&uot; he said. &uot;I was ecstatic.&uot;

Whitley has worked local Special Olympic Meets, but was not ready for what awaited him in North Carolina.

&uot;There were 7,000 people there from all countries,&uot; he said. &uot;The opening ceremonies were unbelievable.&uot;

Whitley was a field marshal the first day, helping security keep people off the field.

The next three days he was a finish line coordinator and helped with the long jump the final two days.

&uot;It was something,&uot; he said. &uot;It was so overwhelming I didn’t even get a chance to watch our group. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Jordan were there and the Franklin Gospel Choir. They pulled an athlete on the stage to perform with them.&uot;

Whitley said the thing he was most impressed with was the effort of the athletes.

&uot;Everybody gave their best effort,&uot; he said. &uot;Nobody leaves a loser, everybody is a winner. I would just like some of our folks to see these people perform. We have some gifted athletes who don’t put forth forth the effort I saw this summer and that’s a shame.&uot;

Whitley said the 2003 Games will be in Ireland.

&uot;Last (school) year was quite a year with winning the indoor and outdoor girls track championships and officiating at the state tournament,&uot; he said. &uot;But this was the crowning gem.&uot;

It was something I will never forget.&uot;