Special Olympics of Iowa got its annual Summer Games underway this week, and one of the first events was cycling.
The cycling events, run by Ray Strekal for the past two decades, were located at the Hilton Coliseum parking lots between Hilton and Jack Trice Stadium starting Thursday morning.
Athletes started their races on Center Street, turned right through the parking lot, looped west on South Fourth Street and made another right turn back towards Center Street to complete their laps.
In the one kilometer time trials, there were 189 athletes scheduled to compete Thursday. There were other events taking place both in the cycling competition and elsewhere around campus, as well.
Volunteers, family members and friends stood at every turn, cheering on the athletes and guiding them toward the finish line.
Among those supportive volunteers were Ryan and Stacy Henryson of Clive, Iowa.
The Henrysons have been volunteering together at Special Olympics every year for the last seven Summer Games competitions.
They have even had the same corner to stand on at the cycling event each year.
“Every year, this is our corner,” Ryan said. “We own it.”
The corner, which is located at one of the Hilton Coliseum parking lot entrances on South Fourth Street, is a perfect place to stand and support the athletes as they round the corner towards the final long stretch.
Stacy said she initially got involved with Special Olympics because her brother had Down syndrome.
“I’ve actually volunteered with Special Olympics since I was a kid,” Stacy said.
Why do they keep coming back to the same corner at the same event each and every year? The answer is pretty simple.
“We love it,” Ryan said. “Seeing the athletes — they’re just so happy. It’s an opportunity for them to get out and excel at something they enjoy doing.”
Students got out and supported the athletes as well.
Puspa Subedi, a senior at Iowa State, said he heard from a friend about a week ago that the Special Olympics were taking place right on campus, and decided to sign up as a volunteer.
Subedi said he was enjoying watching the athletes compete.
“They’re doing great,” Subedi said. “And the atmosphere here is awesome with this beautiful weather.”
Special Olympics Summer Games events will continue through Saturday. A schedule can be found here.