SWEET BRIAR, Va. --- The Sweet Briar athletics department hosted a regional Special Olympics Virginia (SOVA) event on Sunday, April 22. SOVA Olympians from Campbell County and Lynchburg City were invited to attend the first installment of the Vixen Dash. The Special Olympics affiliation is part of a larger National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) initiative; Division III campuses across the country are encouraged to partner and develop relationships with Special Olympics.
After participating in a league-wide SOVA event in the fall, the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) hosted a Volleyball Celebration at SBC in November, Vixen student-athletes, led by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), committed to continue fostering the relationship between SBC and SOVA.
Sunday’s inaugural run of the Vixen Dash was deemed a success on all accounts. SBC student-athletes organized a nine-station obstacle course designed specifically for the Special Olympians. Original plans set the course outside on the rolling acres of SBC’s campus. Due to inclement weather, the races were conducted in Upchurch Field House in the Fitness and Athletic Center.
Sarah Winstead (Apex, N.C./Middlecreek), who holds the secretary office for SAAC, describes developing the idea, “I knew we wanted to host an event where each athlete could work more closely with the Special Olympic athletes. While talking about ideas with Charlotte [Greenwood] (Philadelphia, Pa./Gwynedd-Mercy Academy), I discussed my experience in a Warrior Dash. We both thought we could create something similar for the Special Olympians right here on campus.”
Winstead and Greenwood, along with their fellow members of SAAC and student-athlete volunteers, created a first-of-its-kind event. Twenty SOVA Special Olympians participated in the Vixen Dash. The course included stations requiring a range of skills, from running through hoops and jumping over hurdles to passing a soccer ball, tossing beanbags and a dash to the finish line. SBC student-athletes each paired up with a Special Olympian to run the course. Student volunteers were also positioned along the course and at each obstacle to cheer on each participant.
SAAC president Alexandra St. Pierre (So. Hamilton, Mass./Pingree School) shared her favorite part of the event: “witnessing the interaction between our SBC athletes and the Special Olympians. It was clear that they were enjoying each others company and some of the Olympians became bold enough the second or third time through the course to challenge their SBC buddy or SOVA friend! It was wonderful to see everyone cheering, high-fiving, laughing hysterically and just generally having a fantastic time together.”
By the end of the event, Special Olympians and SBC student-athletes alike were talking about plans for next year's Vixen Dash. To learn more about SOVA, click here.