CEDAR RAPIDS — Saturday at Prairie Point Middle School a group of athletes who saw two years of competition wiped out by the pandemic got to get together again and it was wonderful day.

The East Central Iowa Region of the Special Olympics of Iowa held its first Regional track and field meet since 2019 as teams from across the area came to try qualify for the State meet in Ames next month.

One of the largest contingents was the Vinton-Shellsburg United team, coached by Tammy Zimmerman, Mike Kramer and Michelle Lane. VSU includes young people from not only the VS school district, but also Benton Community, Center Point-Urbana, Marion, Oelwein and other communities. The members of the team range all the way from age eight to their early 20s, and most of that latter group have been with the program for over a decade.

In addition to the athletes there was a big group of volunteers from Vinton, most of them local educators organized by Mindy McClintock who is one of the meet officials. Superintendent Kyle Koeppen — formally the principal at Prairie Point — and teachers Heidi Primrose and Cynthia Chyma among others manned the 50-yard dash finish line; one of the busiest spots on the track.

The 2022 Spring Games open May 19 at Iowa State University with the opening ceremonies at Hilton Coliseum. Friday will be a full day of competition in and around the Lied Center, followed Friday night by a dance for the athletes at Hilton. Saturday morning will finish up the competition.

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