Athletes should begin training now to prepare for a fun-filled day of games and activities during the annual John C. Stennis Area III Special Olympics Track and Field Competitions scheduled for March 29.

To be eligible to compete, athletes must be at least eight years old (no upper age limit), be mentally handicapped, and have a current medical form on file with the Special Olympics. All eligible athletes are urged to plan now for this exciting event.

Track and field competitions, patterned on the World Olympics, include an opening ceremony and parade of athletes, relays races, bocce ball, volleyball, wheelchair races, assisted walks, badminton, basketball, standing and running long jumps, shot put, and 50-, 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes. An assortment of fun events and entertainment will also be available.

This event draws athletes from Hancock, Harrison, Pearl River, and Stone counties, and requires assistance from hundreds of volunteers and sponsors to make the day a success.

The mission of the Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic type sports for all mentally handicapped children and adults, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills, and friends with their families, other Special Olympians, and the community.

Through successful experiences in sports, Olympians gain confidence and build a positive self-image that carries over into the classroom, the home, the job, and the community.

Athletes may sign up through their school's Special Education Office or by calling Penny Replogle, Area 111 Director, at 228-343-1009 or

This year's event is coordinated by the A2Research at Stennis.