Camped out beneath a tree at Wichita State University, amid coolers and plates of pasta salad, stood Morgan and Halie Baker — two Special Olympics athletes.
Ten-year-old Morgan, a pony-tailed fifth-grader from Emporia, is soft-spoken next to her older sister Halie, 11.
Both have intellectual disabilities. Halie has autism.
"And on this side, I'm blind," Morgan said, pointing to her eyes.
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On Friday, both girls biked in the 1K and 3K cycling races at the statewide Special Olympics Kansas Summer Games, which run through Sunday at WSU.
This year's games showcase more than 1,300 intellectually disabled athletes competing in three days of athletic events.
Contests in 22 sports — such as swimming, golf and gymnastics — help empower athletes to become productive and respected members of their communities, said Donna Zimmerman, senior vice president for marketing and communications at Special Olympics Kansas.
"Our goal is to help break down the barriers and let people know what athletes can do, not what they can't do," Zimmerman said.
Track and field events will be held today from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Cessna Stadium. Activities for athletes with low motor skills or in wheelchairs start at 1:30 p.m. in Koch Arena.
Athletes will meet Sunday between 8:30 and 11:30 a.m. to wrap up relay races and receive awards.
Opening ceremonies, including the last leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run, were scheduled for Friday night. The Torch Run was started in 1971 by former Wichita Police Chief Richard LaMunyon.
Kelly Crook, 38, helped Morgan and Halie get involved in Special Olympics. A volunteer at Riverside Elementary School in Emporia where the girls attend school, Kelly joined Special Olympics 17 years ago.
Kelly, who was born with intellectual disabilities, is one of two women who competed in Friday's 5K cycling race.
Bev Crook, Kelly's mother, said her daughter trains for Special Olympics games at least five hours each week.
"She drives her bike everywhere," Bev Crook said.
Kelly's ultimate goal is to bike across the state.
"If I had a friend that would go with me and a volunteer, that would be great," Kelly said.
Special Olympics is open to individuals eight and older with any of 200 mental disabilities. Zimmerman said most athletes she sees have Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy or fetal alcohol syndrome.
Once athletes join, Zimmerman said, they see a physical impact from training two to four hours each week, a boost in confidence and closer families.
"They come for the sports, but they stay for the life," Zimmerman said. "We are really their health and their fitness."