CLOVERDALE, Va. – At Read Mountain Middle in Cloverdale, spirit is a schoolwide initiative.
The student body works diligently to help motivate, but the athletes they are focusing on are special.
They'll be giving their all in the Special Olympics.
"The whole school is involved. The students are involved, the PE teachers, special education teachers. the administration. Everybody's behind these kids doing this. It's great for the kids because they get to do sports and be a part of a team, just like all the other students have that opportunity so they get that opportunity also," Read Mountain physical education teacher Stacy Anderson said.
Leading up to the games, special education adaptive PE becomes something of a track practice.
The athletes come in a wide range of ability levels, but they share a common motivation -- a desire to compete. The responses I got from Special Olympic athletes all had a similar theme.
"You can run fast," -
"I get happy," - and, "I like to run."
Read Mountain assigns their athletes "buddies" - classmates who are there for more personalized, individual support.- not just in their Olympic events, but in everyday middle school life.
"The most rewarding thing is watching her grow stronger every day, watching her achieve new accomplishments. And I'm really proud of her. She's achieved so much just over the summer," sixth-grade buddy Natalia Guerra said.
"So they can feel more comfortable, I guess because they've known us longer than most people," seventh-grade buddy Layne Jones explained.
"For them it's 'Friday Night Lights'. They're having just as much fun as the kids who are participating in that so," Anderson said.
The upcoming "Big Feet meet" might be an athletic pursuit. But the more important goal everyone involved is chasing - are the inclusive memories for these students that can last a lifetime.