Nate Blaine is focused and ready to go for a really big race this weekend.
Blaine will compete in the 1,500-meter run at the Special Olympics Summer Games in Ames.
Special Olympics exists to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for individuals with intellectual disabilities. It gives them continuing opportunities so they can develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendships with their families, other athletes, and the community.
Blaine qualified for the Summer Games through a win he earned in the race at a regional competition in Lamoni earlier this spring.
“I’m doing the 1,500-meter run, the standing long jump and two bicycle races,” Blaine said.
“We’ve got all three days going on,” said Linda, Nate’s mother, explaining he will ride the bicycle Thursday, do long jump Friday and run on Saturday.
Nate has competed in Special Olympics in a variety of capacities. He was once a part of a team Nodaway Valley had, then he was a part of the wider Adair County Aces team that has been on a hiatus during the pandemic. More recently, Nate’s parents have been his coach.
In high school, Nate was a part of the Nodaway Valley track and cross country programs. Nate has participated in every Nodaway Valley cross country summer camp since 2013, and the Blaines appreciate coach Darrell Burmeister for always making Nate feel like he is a part of the team when he participates.
Nate, 28, has gone to state in multiple events through the years, since he began with Special Olympics as a seventh-grader. This keeps a streak alive of him making it to state in track and field each year he’s participated.
Making it to state in the 1,500 is a really big deal for Nate.
“Only first place goes to state,” Linda said.
“I really liked winning, getting a gold medal,” Nate said. The entire Graceland University football team cheered him on around the indoor track at the regional event.
Others serve as guides at the meets for athletes because coaches like Linda, and Nate’s father Jack, aren’t allowed right in the competition area when the action is happening.
It’s the people, after all, that make Special Olympics such a good experience for Nate and his family. Nate, who has autism, has missed the interaction with them during the pandemic and is glad these events have started back up.
“Special Olympics is the greatest thing. He goes and sees people who have become his friends over the years. When he went skiing in January after he hadn’t for about two years, he was ecstatic, and they were too,” Jack said. “The biggest part is all the people he sees.”