Everyone was a winner at the Hannibal Special Olympics on Saturday, May 6, at Porter Stadium at Hannibal High School.

Everyone was a winner at the Hannibal Special Olympics on Saturday, May 6, at Porter Stadium at Hannibal High School. In addition to the first- and second-place medals being presented, all other athletes received third-place medals, according to Hannibal Public Schools Superintendent Susan Johnson.

This was the first year the Hannibal Public Schools District hosted Special Olympics for both students and adults.

The winners will have an opportunity to compete in the Special Olympics state track and field meet, which will be on June 3 and 4 in Springfield, Mo., with 700 athletes competing.

Johnson opened the Special Olympics, declaring, “Let the games begin.” All the athletes participated in the opening ceremonies, along with Mike Vaia, Hannibal Schools Director of Special Services; and Diane Brimer of Columbia, Regional Director for the Special Olympics of Missouri (SOMO) Central District.

Hannibal had two teams, the Hannibal Pirates for students, and the Hannibal Hawks for adults. Teams also came from Kirksville and Brookfield, Johnson reported. Among the athletes were people served by the Marion County Services for the Developmentally Disabled.

Vaia was expecting 58 athletes, Johnson said, adding, “There were probably more that registered the day of (Saturday).”

She declared it will “absolutely” become an annual event. “I think it was an overwhelming success, considering it was the first event we have held in Hannibal in that manner,” she said. “We look forward to doing that for years to come.”

Students may begin competing at age 8, and Brimer had previously reported that in years past they had to travel to Kirksville.

Johnson also was pleased to see how much support her students and staff provided on Saturday. “I had numerous high school students who chose to give up their Saturday to volunteer, who told me if we ever do anything like that again to please let them know. It was an extremely rewarding experience.”

Brea Stokes, a member of the “Cheer” team of volunteers, was among the enthusiastic students. "It was a fun experience,” she said. “It was fun hanging out with all the people.”

Johnson added that she was “proud of our staff who came out to support the students. There were numerous staff members, both volunteers and spectators, who came out to support their students, which is a testimony to the strong relationships they develop with their students.”

Lisa Baughman had a special reason to attend the May 6 event. In addition to she and her husband, Doug, being HHS teachers, their granddaughter, 8-year-old Taylor Baughman, daughter of Josh and Christy Baughman of Kirksville, was among the athletes.

Taylor and her dad had the honor of leading the athletes of all ages around the track during the opening ceremonies. Later Taylor won all three of her events. She was the only athlete in her 8 to 11 age group. She did the standing long jump, 50-meter dash and softball toss.

Taylor's dad explained she had competed in the state bowling contest and had been in a track meet in Kirksville before coming to the Special Olympics in Hannibal.

Lisa Baughman explained this was Taylor's second Special Olympics, with the first being at Truman University in Kirksville, where the students volunteered and each athlete had a “buddy.”

This year's Special Olympics was over before 1 p.m., after being scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Baughman said, “because they don't make them wait” for the time an event was scheduled.

Johnson explained that “the reason it ended quicker was because everybody was making good time.”

This year's event was planned in a short time, Baughman said, adding, “I think they pulled it off very well.

“It was a wonderful event for having just a couple months (to plan) and so many volunteers,” she said. “Next year we might see an increase.”

See photo gallery for more pictures.

Reach reporter Bev Darr at bev.darr@courierpost.com.