FARMINGDALE — Christian Lemelin finally had his time to shine.

The 26-year-old Chelsea native, who has spina bifida and hydrocephalus (excess fluid in the brain), was one of dozens of athletes who competed in the Kennebec Area Special Olympics spring games at Hall-Dale High School on Wednesday.

Lemelin flawlessly maneuvered his wheelchair between the cones during the morning’s slalom race. Afterward, he had his post-race ribbon presented to him by Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office Detective Christian Behr as he beamed a glorious smile.

“That means much more to him than the race,” said Lemelin’s father, Michael Lemelin. “He’s a big police officer fan; police, firemen, ambulances and all of the [emergency services], he loves them all.”

The athletes got to experience those same joyous emotions all morning and into the early afternoon at the latest Special Olympics spring games at Hall-Dale. Contestants ran, jumped and threw their way to endless memories in an event held for the first time in three years.

For more than a decade now, Hall-Dale has hosted the Kennebec Area Special Olympics spring games. It’s an event put on by the track and field team that closely mirrors a track and field meet with relay races, individual sprints and throwing events all included in the offerings.


Although Wednesday’s event featured many high school-age athletes, there were those of all ages on hand. It was a particularly welcome experience after COVID-19 rendered the event unable to go forward at Hall-Dale in both 2020 and 2021.

“It’s always a special day at Hall-Dale whenever we’re able to do this event,” said Hall-Dale head track and field coach Jarod Richmond. “I’ve been here at Hall-Dale for 11 years, and it’s a real sign of spring when we’re able to do this. It makes everybody feel right.”

Christian Lemelin, second from left, gets his ribbons for from the wheelchair slalom and 25-meter dash events during a Kennebec Special Olympics event Wednesday at Hall-Dale High School in Farmingdale. Lemelin’s parents, Michael and Kelly Lemelin look on. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Although the Special Olympics continued to operate during the early stages of the pandemic, up until Wednesday athletes with disabilities simply did not have the same experiences as they did in years prior. The perfect weather in an outdoor environment provided an ideal atmosphere for them to engage in the activities they love.

“We tried Zoom and the virtual route for our activities, and we’ve put a lot of our programming on video, but it’s not the same as being here as a whole together and competing,” said Special Olympics Maine Programming Director Mike Littlefield. “Being outdoors is certainly a lot easier than packing hundreds of people into a gym, so that also helps.”

Cony, one of the few other schools attending the event, gave its contingent the proper sendoff. At the beginning of the school day, the pep band led the school’s competitors toward the buses as students and teachers lined the hallways to applaud their competing athletes.

Hall-Dale, Richmond said, got 75 student volunteers, nearly one quarter of the school’s student body. That participation made for the camaraderie and bonding that’s been somewhat lacking in the last few years as the pandemic disrupted the high school experience. 

“Let’s be honest: School has been really tough over the past few years,” Richmond said. “It’s been tough to really keep and maintain the school community with everything that’s been going on, so a day like today is tremendous because everybody is together in the same place doing something awesome. It’s a great day for our school community.”

Around the grounds, highlights of the day included Cony senior David Kidd’s victory in the 400-meter relay and a tight competition in the shot put. There were also unforgettable moments away from the action, such as Hall-Dale senior Zachary Sanborn’s lighting of the torch and Lemelin, who is also deaf, communicating “We’re friends” to Detective Behr.

“Because Christian is deaf, he’s very loud, so normally, when we’re in public, people think he’s strange,” Michael Lemelin said. “When he’s here, no matter how loud he is, people look at him like he’s the greatest kid in the world. I wish the whole world could view him like that.”

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