ARGOS – Brave special education students from Marshall County entered the Dragons’ lair Friday as Argos High School hosted the first annual Dragon Olympics.
For five hours the eager athletes threw, kicked, ran, balanced, and pulled trying to win glory for their school. The real glory came, however, as they tested their mental and physical skills and stretched their capabilities to the fullest, spurred on by the cheers of their peers.
“Our special needs students don’t get the same athletic opportunities as their classmates,” said Argos special education aide Angie Resendez, originator and coordinator of the event. “We wanted our students to have a fun and challenging experience based upon their own aptitudes,” she explained.
Flexibility was the key as each event was adapted for student success. Corn hole boards were moved closer together when needed. Only those participants who were capable competed in the bear crawl. Some competitors were in motorized wheel chairs. Others were accompanied by their personal instructional aides.
Argos High School pitched in to help. The woodworking shop designed and made a tabletop catapult for those competitors who were so challenged physically that they could not throw or kick a ball. Argos students volunteered to help, either staying the entire five hours or rotating in and out as their class schedules permitted. Community adults came to help also.
Notable local officials present were Dave Walker, vice president of the Argos Town Council, who donated time around the lunch hour, and Kirk Nellans, president of the Argos School Board, who stayed the entire time and ran the corn hole event.
Donations too numerous to mention included food for lunch and snacks, water and drinks for the participants, handmade award ribbons for participation and for winning and signs made by the art department, signs by Mrs. Shafer’s EH class, prizes, actual trophies for the final winners, and many other items.
Although five area schools that usually cooperate in events such as dances were invited, only three could participate this year: LaVille, with teacher Tammie Radican, Plymouth, with teacher Quinn Selner and instructional aide Karen Warren, and Argos teacher Mary Wojdyla and aide Resendez. Other aides and personal assistants were present also to help their individual student.
“I hope all five schools can participate next year, perhaps rotating the event to different schools,” Nellans said.
A varied palette of 13 events—nine individual competitions and four group activities—kept participants of all skill levels busy throughout the day. To minimize anxiety and wait time, teams were immediately engaged in the bean bag walk when they got off their bus. Individuals had to walk a curving, winding line balancing a bean bag on their head. Then there were the ball throw, the hoop throw, the ball kick, and the shoe kick, in which each individual loosened the shoe on one foot and tried to kick it off as far as it would go. Student volunteers measured the distance kicked, very much like a track meet. The hula hoop/Frisbee toss was a twelve station event in which athletes moved from hoop to hoop on the ground, trying to land a Frisbee in each hoop. In the bucket toss, participants tossed bean bags into buckets of varying distances, similar to a nickel toss at the fair. Bear crawl participants were limited to those who could get on the ground and crawl on all fours, although an adjustment was made for at least one participant who was allowed to jump like a frog.
The first team event, played by school teams, was the plunger race, in which each participant held a toilet bowl plunger and had to pass a ball from plunger to plunger without touching the ball. Next was a relay race with students running back and forth holding a small traffic cone on which was balanced a giant whiffle ball. They could not touch the ball with their hands. Corn hole was next with modified rules: touching the board with the bean bag was worth two points whether the bag stayed on or not, and a hole-in-one was worth four. Mixed in with the large group experiences was a three-legged race. The next-to-last group trial was an energetic tug-of-war with mixed teams. Finally, as the day was getting warmer, athletes thoroughly enjoyed a water balloon dodge. (Not a toss trying to catch the balloon, but a throw with the attempt to drench.)
At the end of the day, awards were given, and trophies were awarded as follows:
• Overall individual athlete – Jake Snyder from LaVille;
• Overall team trophy – Plymouth;
• Traveling spirit trophy (for the best team yell) – Plymouth.
Adult leaders then had to show their sportsmanship by competing in a difficult series in which they circled a bat ten times to make them dizzy, walked with a banana between their knees, ate pudding with no hands, swept a ball with a broom, ate saltine crackers, and then whistled. Radican excelled at this highly specialized trial.
Although competition was used to motivate and excite athletes, at the end of the day Dragon Olympics was not about competing school to school. It was about allowing students to be all they can be. With this as the goal, it succeeded admirably. Stay tuned for next year’s sequel.