RUMFORD — With the temperature high and spirits even higher, nearly 200 athletes from 20 teams participated Thursday morning in the Oxford County Special Olympics’ annual athletics meet at Hosmer Field.

The festivities kicked off with a torch run, where each Special Olympics team marched once around Hosmer Field with the Olympics theme playing over speakers. The athletes were led by Detective Lt. Tom Harriman of the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office and Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School senior Peter Hill, who carried the torch.

Before the games began, Sandra Hebert of Dixfield, co-area manager of the Oxford County Special Olympics, told the athletes, “If you could see what I see standing here, you would be impressed.”

“All we ask for is that you do your best,” Hebert said.

Town Manager Carlo Puiia gave a welcoming speech to the athletes, lauding the “wonderful display of camaraderie” that the Special Olympics program presents to the community.

“This is an event that is not just about winning, but instead about joining together and celebrating something very noble to mankind: good sportsmanship,” Puiia said. “We put aside our obligations and our routines in the spirit of competition. It brings out some of our best qualities.”

Puiia said he has has a grandson who competes in the Special Olympics and is “extremely proud of him.”

“I’m glad that he gets to experience the heartfelt emotions that his fellow Olympians can,” Puiia said. “Together, we can foster a sense of friendship and community,” he added, before he yelled, “Enjoy your day!”

The athletes cheered following Puiia’s speech and formed several groups to participate in the events, which included the long jump and the standing jump, the 100-meter dash, the 1-mile run, the softball and shot put throw and the 100-meter walk.

Afterward, they made their way to the podiums where Harriman and officers from the Rumford Police Department, including Sgt. Doug Maifeld, Sgt. Tracey Higley and officer Daniel Carrier, awarded them with ribbons.

Harriman said he has been volunteering with the Special Olympics program for “25 years, off and on,” while Higley has volunteered for about 12 years.

“When you see those athletes get up on the podium, with the Olympic theme playing and those huge smiles on their faces, it’s the best feeling in the world,” Harriman said as he waited for the next group of athletes to receive their awards. “It doesn’t matter if it’s windy and 10 degrees below zero. These athletes always have a smile on their faces, no matter what.”

Higley agreed, adding that he sees “more smiles at these events than anywhere else.”

“It makes the athletes feel good, and we feel good for helping them out,” Higley said.

Harriman later said that he would also be participating in a program with statewide Irving gas stations where police officers pump gas for residents to raise money for Special Olympics Maine.

“This year, we’re doing it sometime in July, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.,” Harriman said. “It’s just a fun way to raise money for the kids.”

Buckfield High School athlete Bethany Elsman, who won second place in the 200-meter run, was participating for the second time in the Oxford County Special Olympics program and said she plans to join the National Guard after she graduates.

Her father said she was interested in joining the Guard in the nursing field, though Elsman quickly interjected, “No, I want to do something more extreme than that.”

Hebert, who spent most of the morning running from event to event to help others, said that though the day is meant for the athletes, it’s important to note the work that the volunteers do.

“If we didn’t have the volunteers, coaches and helpers doing what they do, none of this would even be possible,” Hebert said.

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