SEARCY, Ark. – Wednesday the torch was lit at Harding University, kicking off the start of the 2022 Arkansas special Olympic Games.

Hundreds of Special Olympics athletes have been waiting and working hard to see the torch and hear 4 exciting words.

“Let the games begin!”

The games begin on Thursday consisting of 6 sports: Track and field, swimming, flag football, tennis, bocce, and powerlifting. 

But compared to years past, there will be a lot more empty seats as covid-19 still makes its impact.

Director of Sports Training, Irvin Humphrey says Special Olympics Arkansas is “slowly getting those numbers back.”

Humphrey adds there are a little under 1,000 athletes participating this week in the Arkansas Games. 

But even with the low attendance in the crowd, the adrenaline still runs high for the athletes and the law enforcement officers who delivered the torch. 

Officers ran thousands of miles from different parts of the state for the ‘ Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Arkansas.’

Eli Keller participated and said, “when you run into the stadium after running 13,14,15 miles and you’re exhausted and beat down with all these families and athletes cheering for you, it’s incredible. It’s very emotional.”

Track runner, Stephanie Price says there is nothing like seeing the torch lit in person. 

“When that thing is lit, the whole game began. You get pumped, and excited.” 

Stephanie Price will be participating in track on Friday. She will also run in Orlando, Florida where the US special Olympic Games will be in June.

Stephanie will run in the 4X400 meter, 1,500 meters, and 3,000-meter races. She says her goal is to beat her best time.

“They’re a true inspiration to me. Just teaches me to never quit and never give up I just try your hardest,” said Humphrey. 

 150 athletes and coaches will represent the state of Arkansas in Orlando. 

Team Arkansas’s sendoff for the U.S Special Olympics in Orlando, Florida is on June 4th and the opening ceremony will be on June 5th and broadcast on Espn. 

 Keep up with Team Arkansas on their website Special Olympics Arkansas – Home.