A 15-member Special Olympics team from the Brownwood school district is preparing for its second track meet after a wildly successful debut at an Abilene meet on April 22.
    The team will travel to Brady to compete on May 9.
    This is the first year Brownwood has had a Special Olympics team in about a decade. The team competed at a region-wide meet at Bulldog Stadium in the Wylie school district, where the Brownwood athletes, accompanied by coaches and “peer buddies,” won numerous medals.
    The athletes — 12 from Brownwood High School, two from the middle school and one from Woodland Heights Elementary — had been training locally for about six weeks before the Abilene meet.
    Through the power of sports, the Special Olympics website says, “people with intellectual disabilities discover new strengths and abilities, skills and success. Our athletes find joy, confidence and fulfillment -- on the playing field and in life. They also inspire people in their communities and elsewhere to open their hearts to a wider world of human talents and potential.”
    Linda Buck, who is head of the special education department at Brownwood High School, helped coach the Brownwood team and explained how Special Olympics returned to Brownwood.
    Buck said special education teachers “were all on board” when Ben Runyan, who started working in January as the district’s special director, started talking about bringing Special Olympics back to Brownwood.
    High school special education teacher Cassi Millican, who was named to head the Brownwood delegation, and Buck learned about Special Olympics as they went, asking each other questions and exchanging information.
    “All we cared about was that we were doing it right so that the kids get to compete and have fun,” Buck said.
    In addition to Buck and Millican, other coaches consisted of Ashley Cross, Heather Hohertz, Rachel Smiley and Tim Stegemoller.
    Five non-disabled students — Madison Ariel, Tristan Buitron, Reanna Grace, Daisy Green and Hayden Tunnell — are helping as “peer buddies.”
    In the days following the Abilene meet, the athletes and their coaches hadn’t gotten over the excitement.
    “It was really, really special,” Millican said. “We see them every day, but to see them in that realm … it was priceless. Their faces were just absolutely priceless. Talk about your heart spilling over …”
    “This was their turn. It was our day. The joy we got out of it … we’d do it a million more times.”
    Buck added, “I’m still on a Special Olympics high.”