CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Cheers, smiles and excitement welcomed the first full day of the 2017 Special Olympics Winter Games at Sugarloaf on Monday.

“Just to see their faces light up with smiles and the positivity — you can feel it,” said Liz Villies, a volunteer from Unity College.

She and other students timed and recorded the snowshoe racers and cheered the athletes on.

About 450 Special Olympians representing 54 teams from across the state arrived Sunday, said Lisa Bird, director of public relations for Maine Special Olympics.

“They are so excited,” Bird said. “They have been training for weeks.” 

There were about 800 people, including coaches, chaperones and volunteers, she said.

The weather was good and so are the snow conditions, she said.  

Following a noontime parade of teams, opening ceremonies were held with Special Olympian Anna McDougal of Wiscassett, carrying the flame. With help from Maine game wardens, she lit the torch.

McDougal is a member of the Bears team of the Bath-Brunswick Area Adult Special Olympics. In March, she will compete in Alpine events at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria, Bird said. 

Darby Sabin of Wilton, a senior at Mt. Blue High School, asked athletes to sing the national anthem along with her.

Isabelle Thomas of Chesterville, Miss Farmington Fair, also a senior at Mt. Blue, officially opened the games.

Seth Wescott, two-time Olympic gold medalist on the U.S. snowboarding team and Special Olympics board member, recited the Special Olympians oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” 

Athletes competed in Alpine skiing, cross-county skiing, snowshoeing or speed skating.

Snowshoeing is the largest venue of the games, said Scott Gregory of Fryeburg, snowshoe director. About 200 athletes will compete in the 25- 50- and 100-meter personal-time trials Monday, he said. Another 18 will try the 200- and 400-meter loop in the field across from The Rack restaurant.

Athletes of all ages took turns whipping across the snow with a few other athletes. On Tuesday, they will compete with athletes that are nearer to their age and skill level.

Gregory also acknowledged the help of numerous volunteers. On Tuesday, the National Honor Society from Mt. Blue High School in Farmington and a group from Erskine Academy in China will time athletes and cheer them on.  

Some of the volunteers are board members and some are from various businesses, he said.

A banquet and dance was held Monday night.

Bird acknowledged the efforts of the many volunteers, along with the residents of Carrabassett Valley, who provided a potluck meal for athletes, chaperones and coaches Sunday evening.

Athletes were invited to stop at the American Legion Post 28 in Farmington where auxiliary members provide a light meal Sunday noon.

Final trials are Tuesday and awards will be presented at noon.

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