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WCHS athletes train for Special Olympics
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Tenth-grader James Coates jumps, while ninth-grader Logan Fury follows behind as Warren County Special Olympics athletes and peer buddies train for upcoming competitions inside of the indoor facility at WCHS. - photo by Atlanta Northcutt

The Warren County School System has a Special Olympics team for students in the Individualized Education Program. 

This inspiring project, which includes the high school, middle and elementary schools, allows students as young as 8 years old to be eligible to compete. Warren County’s Special Olympics team is involved in the regional and statewide Special Olympics competitions.

There are 14 counties in the region that have Special Olympics teams. This is the first year in decades that Warren County is participating in these competitions. The high school has the most student-athletes with around 30 in the unified peer buddy division and 15 in the single traditional competition.

Lori DeArmond is the coach and is also a Comprehensive Disa-bilities Classroom teacher at Warren County High School. She has taught for 15 years and focuses on functional communication, daily living skills and job skills each student can perform independently.

“We focus on ability more than disability, particularly when it comes to the athletes who compete in the Special Olympics,” says DeArmond.

The Special Olympics helps to instill confidence, excitement and a deeper friendship between peer buddies and other team members. Practicing in the indoor exercise facility gives students a break from the classroom and the ability to enjoy multiple forms of exercises with racing, jumping, running and other activities that will be held at the competitions. Equality and having fun are two of the most important aspects of training and competing in the Special Olympics.

“Independence is our ultimate goal. Through the Special Olympics, athletes are able to compete at a level where they are truly competitive. With the unified sports, it builds relationships on the basis of sports, decreasing the separation of the students,” says DeArmond.

Some of the sports and activities offered are track and field, basketball and bocce. The Warren County Special Olympics team is hoping to expand to flag football, bowling, power-lifting, golf and winter sports, such as skiing, snowboarding and ice-skating. There are several activities the students can do on their own. For team sports, the unified peer buddy system is used.

In January, the Middle School Special Olympics team won first place and the high-schoolers won fourth in the unified and traditional divisions in basketball. Every player made it to the top four when the team went to the bocce competition on March 8 in Sparta. On April 12, the team will participate in the track and field competition at Tennessee Tech.

Warren County Special Olympics organizers and team members are hopeful to perform at the National Special Olympics Games in June 2022 as part of Team Tennessee.