Four Olympians headed to National Games

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.

Athletes from Selma and surrounding areas took this oath before competing in Cahaba Center’s 27th annual Special Olympic Games at Memorial Stadium Tuesday.

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The games kicked off with an opening ceremony around the stadium track. Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. carried the Olympic Torch alongside four Special Olympians that have qualified to compete in the National Special Olympic Games in Ames, Iowa on July 2.

Selma residents Michelle Barrett and Myron Leverett, Russell Dupree of Marion and Sharilene Norfleet of Uniontown will compete in several events on the campus of Iowa University. The games will conclude on July 7.

“This is the first year that we’ve had people from Selma go to the National Special Olympics and I’ve been here for 29 years,” said Floyd Sanders, coordinator of the day training program at Cahaba Mental Health. “We’re excited.”

The four competitors are excited about two things – the upcoming games and the trip to Iowa. Some confessed the games will be their first out of town trip.

Said Barrett, “I’ve never flown on an airplane before. My mother said it would be good for me to go. I know my father would be proud of me. My father and my grandmother and my grandfather are all in heaven. They’d be proud of me.”

Unlike Barrett, Norfleet is the least bit excited about flying. “No!” she said, shaking her head. “I’m glad to go and I pray that we have a safe trip up there and a safe trip out.”

Dupree said he is confident he and his fellow teammates will make Alabama proud.

“We’ll do what we got to do,” Dupree said. “With the Lord’s help, we’ll be all right.”

The Olympians competed in several events in Tuesday’s competition, including the softball throw, the shot-put, the 50-meter dash, the 400-meter run, the 200-meter run, the distance kick and the 400-meter relay.

Before the games began, Perkins thanked competitors, community members and volunteers for “just showing up.”

“This is a special day for us,” he said. “Give yourselves a hand. You are all winners today.”

The Selma High School band performed upbeat musical selections as competitors gave their absolute best in each event. Volunteers from area schools and the Southside High School cheerleaders served as the pep squad, encouraging the competitors every step of the way.

“Sharilene, you can do it! Sharilene, you can do it!” Southside cheerleaders chanted as Norfleet competed in the softball throw.

Cahaba Center Mental Retardation Director Lafon Barlow said this year’s games were “fantastic.” Barlow said the games would not be successful without the donations and support from area schools, civic organizations, community agencies, businesses and churches, all of whom she thanked as the games came to a close.

“It gets bigger and better every year,” she said.