IOWA CITY, Iowa - The University of Iowa Field House was packed with excitement and a show of athleticism on Saturday, for the Special Olympics of Iowa Mid-Winter Tournament. It brought together 133 delegations and around 1,000 athletes from across the state to compete.
"It's energetic, it's energizing," said Hal Pittman, president and CEO of Special Olympics Iowa. "Just to be able to see the athletes' joy at being able to compete."
Many of the athletes at the tournament aren't limited to just one sport. Marcus Cruz, for example, played basketball on Saturday, and will then run in the spring.
"I do track for Special Olympics," Cruz told us. "The 200 meter dash and the 100 meter dash."
With 7 different sports on display, Pittman said this is a place where these athletes can realize their potential.
"Basketball, basketball skills, gymnastics, cheerleading, powerlifting," Pittman explained. "So it's a great display of athleticism across multiple disciplines."
Pittman said this marks more than 20 years of the Mid-Winter tourney being hosted on the University of Iowa campus. But many athletes here were preparing for another challenge: The Special Olympics USA Games in June, in New Jersey.
"3,000 athletes, 3,000 to 5,000 volunteers, a week-long celebration of all their hard work," said Team Iowa coach Rob Wagner.
Wagner said 26 people from the Cedar Rapids area will be going to the east coast for the event.
In the meantime, it's local events like this that remind him and the other volunteers why they do it.
"When we come to these competitions like today, it's like a big family reunion," Wagner told us.