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Special Olympics ready to debut

3/18/2014

By JUDY SHERARD

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Weekends usually mean Hays is playing host to a group of competitors, and even though it's spring break for many, this weekend is no exception.

The Special Olympics Kansas state basketball and cheerleading tournament begins Thursday and runs through Saturday.

The Opening Ceremony is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Gross Memorial Coliseum, and features the traditional parade of athletes and lighting of the cauldron.

More than 1,000 athletes, their families and sponsors will be in town for the event.

The Hays Buffalos team has the distinction of having the oldest basketball player, Avon Smith, 68, and oldest cheerleader, Mary Lou Boese, 69, competing this year, according to a news release.

"The Hays folks have a really good team," said Donna Zimmerman, Special Olympics Kansas vice president of communications.

A late season storm caused the tournament to be cut short last year, but that shouldn't be a problem this year.

Tim Rehder, senior vice president of program operations, said cold temperatures won't be a problem, but sleet or snow can be.

"The extended forecast (this year) is exactly what I would want to see," he said.

Volunteers still are needed for Saturday, Zimmerman said.

Competitive events will be at Fort Hays State University, Hays High School, and the Hays Recreation Center.