LAUREL — After competing as the lone unified athlete in two events at a track meet in Laurel Saturday, Park City sprinter Lillian Briggs said she loved the experience and wants to encourage more people with intellectual disabilities to compete in sports.
“It was a thrill. It was a real thrill and I enjoyed it and I want to keep competing," Briggs said.
Briggs, a senior at Park City High School, is the first-ever unified athlete at the school. The Unified Sports® program is ran by Special Olympics and brings together athletes with and without intellectual disabilities to practice and compete on the same team.
Briggs is brand new to track and field this year. She's been practicing with her teammates every day after school for the last three weeks to prepare for her events: the 100 meter dash and 100 meter hurdles.
A few hours before the starting gun, Briggs said she wasn't nervous, but excited to compete.
“I did excellent in practice. Yesterday, I did all 10 (hurdles) with perfect form and didn’t hit a single one. So I can’t wait to show off what I did in practice," Briggs said.
The first event for Briggs was the 100 meter dash. At the starting line, Park City Head Track Coach Bob Hogemark was next to Briggs lane, likely offering some last-minute words of encouragement.
Briggs finished the 100 meter dash with in 17.93 seconds.
A few heats later, Briggs was at the starting line again. This time, with 10 hurdles separating her from the finish line. Briggs breezed over the obstacles and kept her focus, not paying too much mind to the people cheering her on until after the race.
“Just focus, keep my eyes forward and don’t pay attention to the crowd," is what Briggs said was going through her head during the race.
After each event, Briggs's face was noticeably plastered with a grin from ear to ear.
“I loved it," Briggs said.
Briggs had plenty of supporters. Some were on the infield and some were in the stands cheering her on to the finish. She said it meant a lot to her that they were there.
“It means a lot to me. I’m glad I’m part of this program and I’m glad I have people here to support here. From Special Olympics friends to current school mates and my parents and my siblings. I’m glad to have everybody here to support me, watch me and cheer me on," Briggs said.
For anyone out there who thinks they can't compete like Briggs, she had the following to say.
“Yes you can. You can do it. Have faith in yourself and don’t let it get to your head,” Briggs said.