MILTON-FREEWATER - Close to 200 competitors basked in the glory of thousands of high fives and "good jobs" at the 2012 Special Olympics Oregon Summer Regional Games held Saturday at McLoughlin High School's Shockman Field.
Even the athletes who didn't win got plenty of accolades.
Hermiston-Pendleton team coach Keith Smith said it's a big deal for Special Olympics athletes, who are not really that different from most athletes.
"When you and I accomplish something, we feel really good about ourselves. And everybody wants to improve. They are just like everybody else," Smith said.
As in any athletic event, the Saturday's competitors also saw the agony of defeat.
"There are times they can be very disappointed, if they don't get a medal or if they fall," said Audrey Ahmann, who came to support son Shawn, 24.
Shawn, a member of the Blue Mountain Stampeders team, won a medal on Saturday. But if he hadn't, Ahmann noted her son, as with most of the competitors, is quick to shake off disappointment.
"It usually passes very quickly," she said.
What sticks around for the long run at a Special Olympics event are joy and praise, a good thing because these competitors thrive on them.
"They love hugs and being recognized," Jeanne Boschker said, and the proof stood right beside her.
Alana Danielson had just won a medal and kept showing it off to Boschker and Smith over and over again.
Each time she was given a "good job."
Even when they don't get first place, it's hard to crush the spirit of these athletes.
"They are happy for each other, and they love each other," Boschker said.
Most of all, they love to complete and not just in running events.
Saturday's competition also included shot put, long jump, softball throw and a 3,000-meter walk.
"It boosts their self-esteem … It gives them a whole lot of respect in themselves. I don't care if they win. It gives them pride in themselves," Stuart Bance said.
Many also compete in snowboarding, skiing, swimming and other Special Olympics events. But on Saturday at Shockman, it was all about track and field and the love of the games.
"He (Shawn) loves track. It gives him camaraderie with his fellow athletes and they just get excited," Ahmann said.
Alfred Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8325.