After his race, Fulton High School student Dakota Wynn had a skinned elbow, bright eyes and a huge grin.
"I don't care if I win or lose," he said. "I'm just here to have fun and represent all the kids who don't really get to do this sort of thing."
He and about 100 other Fulton Public Schools students participated in a unified track meet Friday at FHS. These Special Olympics events put Special Olympians and their classmates out on the field together.
"FHS student council started this three years ago," explained incoming student council President Kelly Gillespie. "We thought it would be really special to have a Play Unified event here, where our athletes' friends can cheer them on. We chose matching T-shirts (for the Olympians and volunteers) to show that we're all equal."
Each Special Olympian paired up with a student volunteer who accompanied them through the events. A group of students from the Missouri School for the Deaf also volunteered at the event.
"We hope they'll build friendships with the high school and MSD members who are here and will get an experience they always remember," Gillespie said.
Judging by the grins and cheers as the children ran, threw softballs and did long-jumps, participants were having exactly that kind of experience.
"I ran super fast," kindergartener Joey Vickers said. "I beat that boy! He didn't beat me, I beat him!"
His buddy-for-the-day Taylor Kettle, an 11th grader, gave him a high five.
"He was super shy at first, wouldn't even look at me, but now he's cheering for his friends," Kettle said. "I like helping kids open up to others and not feel like outcasts — they're all just kids."
FHS Principal Chris Mincher said he was proud of the student council members who took point in organizing the event and the student athletes.
"This provides a great opportunity for the students to come together and work together," he said.