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Special Olympics torch makes downtown pass

June 08, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN

As the Special Olympics torch approached downtown Hagerstown from the west, Sarah Roney waited with her mother in Public Square.

Roney, 31, has ridden in Special Olympics equestrian events for six years and has picked up six medals, including four golds. In 2003, she represented the United States at an event in Ireland.

Carolyn Roney, who lives in Hagerstown, said her daughter used to compete in track and field events. But, Sarah physically was more suited to horseback riding, which she likes.

"Just go and ride," Sarah said.

Special Olympics sports festivals are geared for people with mental disabilities.

This weekend is the summer games for Maryland's athletes. At Towson University, events such as aquatics, bocce and softball skills will be held.

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But, before the games can start, tradition says, the Special Olympics torch must cross the state with a relay team.

On Wednesday, the torch passed through downtown Hagerstown.

It left Hancock early in the morning, said Vicki Follett, the assistant director and track coach for Special Olympics in Washington County. The torch has to get to Towson by Friday, when the opening ceremony will be held.

Washington County is taking 24 athletes to the state competition, said Marva Davis, the county's Special Olympics director.

As Davis spoke more about local events, Sarah Roney ducked away.

So did 15-year-old Joseph Clay and his mother, Margie French, of Hagerstown.

That's because the torch was coming. They hurried to join the relay group jogging up West Washington Street.

Alan Artz of Williamsport held the torch as he led the pack, which was a mix of Special Olympians and police officers.

His stepmother, Diane Artz, said Alan has run - and competed in Special Olympics - before, but had to stop after having a pancreas transplant the day before Thanksgiving.

Wednesday's run - 1.1 miles - was Alan's longest run since then, Diane Artz said.

The pack took a break at Public Square, where they were greeted by Hagerstown Councilman Lewis C. Metzner.

French said she was a Special Olympics athlete before her son was.

"I got him involved," she said.

Joseph has won medals in running and jumping.

His mother said she has tried many events - swimming, volleyball, hockey, basketball, and track and field.

French said she wants to be a coach, too, because she likes Special Olympics so much.

"It touches my heart," she said.

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