Twelve Reynoldsburg athletes will compete in track and field events at the Special Olympics Summer Games beginning tomorrow (Friday) at the Ohio State University's Jessie Owens Memorial Stadium.

Twelve Reynoldsburg athletes will compete in track and field events at the Special Olympics Summer Games beginning today (Friday) at the Ohio State University's Jessie Owens Memorial Stadium.

With approximately 2,800 athletes participating from 77 Ohio counties, Reynoldsburg Special Olympics coordinator Nancy Nardis said this is the fifth year the local chapter has competed in the event.

Nardis said the kids involved in Special Olympics are mostly individuals in special education programs in the Reynoldsburg school system and some who have mental retardation or cognitive disabilities.

"A lot of our athletes are in the school system and weren't able to participate in some of the sports their classmates participate in," she said, "so Special Olympics provides sports they can participate in all year around."

Nardis said is the program also helps build friendships and keep participants physically fit and active in the community.

"It gets them out to help them participate in society," Nardis said.

She said the Reynoldsburg Special Olympics chapter consists of a total of 33 athletes, 25 who are active, and said 12 are competing in the summer games at Ohio State. She explained that they volunteered and met the requirements to participate.

Nardis said the kids on her team range in age from 8 to 23. They will participate in the track and field events only, including a 4/100 meter relay, an individual 100 meter relay and a softball throw event.

The athletes competing on the Reynoldsburg team are Jacob Gibson, Austin VanAlmsick, Christopher Trumbull, Lynsey Johnson, Molly Estadt, Carl Lewis, Chris Gray, Derek Kirksey Jr., Dominique McDougal, Kristine Sevy, Jamie Portman and Isaiah Mullins.

The volunteer coaches include head coach Jennifer Piela of Canal Winchester, Frank Iulianelli of Columbus and Brookelyn Johnson, Tyler Kilhefner, Emma Hayfer, Zach Owens, all from Reynoldsburg, as well as Kinsey Skalican, a former resident now living in West Virginia.

Requirements for each athlete to participate in the summer games include participation in two track and field events held in the spring.

Other sports featured at the summer games include bowling and roller skating, aquatics, bocce, cycling, gymnastics, soccer, a softball throw, tennis and volleyball.

At the end of the event, first-, second- and third-place winners are recognized with medals similar to those of the traditional Olympic Games. Fourth- and fifth-place athletes receive ribbons.

Throughout the year, Nardis said the group holds fundraising campaigns to pay for uniforms, equipment and to participate in the events such as the summer games.

"The summer games are probably where the most expense is, with entry fees and which costs $130 per athlete, including the coaches," she said.

Nardis said Special Olympics connects people in communities everywhere.

"It's just being a part of these individual's lives, it enriches my life and it's very contagious to anybody who is around these athletes to see what they accomplish," Nardis said.

"It's so inspirational to be around them and to be able to be a part of their lives and it does a lot for their self esteem," she said.

The summer games are held at the Jessie Owens Memorial Stadium, 2450 Fred Taylor Drive, and run from Friday, June 27, through Sunday, June 29.

The first round of events begins at 2:30 p.m. Friday, with opening ceremonies kicking off at 6:45 p.m. The games will resume at 8:30 a.m. both on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free.

Nardis said donations to the Reynoldsburg Special Olympics chapter can be mailed to Reynoldsburg Special Olympics, P.O. Box 1642, Reynoldsburg 43068.