The track at Mooresville High School's football field is about to erupt into a shimmering parade of orange, red, royal blue and purple as athletes separate into their color groups.
The flag is flying. The ninth-grade band is playing. The sun is shining.
"It's a great day. Let's go out and have fun. Do our best. Let's rock," said Dr. Mark Edwards, superintendent for Mooresville Graded School District.
"Let the games begin."
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But these are not just any games. This is the Special Olympics North Carolina-Lake Norman's Spring Games, held April 15 at Mooresville High School's Joe Popp Stadium.
Special Olympics North Carolina offers sports training and competition in 19 Olympic-type sports to more than 38,000 individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Amid the rainbow of T-shirts is a pod of supporters wearing white T-shirts decorated with a spectrum of neon-bright hand prints and the words "Taylor's Teammates" on the front.
Raygen Taylor, 13, is wearing a Taylor's Teammates shirt. The Mooresville Middle eighth-grader said the T-shirts are made by student volunteers who help with Jay Taylor's exceptional children's class.
The first event is the 4x100 meter relay. Other events, special to the Special Olympics, include the 25m/50m/100m/400m race walk, 10m/25m/30m/50m/100m wheelchair races and obstacles, softball throw, tennis ball throw, and the standing and running long jump.
Seventy-three athletes are participating. The athletes are from Rocky River Elementary, Mooresville Intermediate, Mooresville Middle and Mooresville High, along with independent athletes of Lake Norman area. Ages range from 8-54.
Taylor's Teammates include Taylor's nine students and volunteers from the girls' track team coached by Kristin Eastmer and the baseball team coached by Taylor and Michael Fulton.
Raygen Taylor volunteers, in part, because she has known Kendall Davis, 13, since fifth grade. Davis was born with cerebral hypoplasia, an underdevelopment of the brain. It affects everything from speech to a person's ability to walk.
"Kendall is like a sister to me. Really, they are the teachers to us," she said, wise beyond her years. The 25-meter assisted walk is next and Kendall is competing.
Jay Taylor helps students Julianna Campbell, 13, and Amber Graham, 13, get Davis out of her wheelchair, rubbing her arms for calm.
Juliana and Amber keep Kendall delicately wedged between them, firmly guiding her along the track.
Kendall's mother, Felicia Davis, and her family of students, friends and teachers cheer, enveloping her in hugs when they cross the finish line.
When Kendall started school at 3 she couldn't walk or crawl.
Kendall's mother describes her progress: Through the support of the Park View Elementary teachers and therapists, Kendall was walking with a walker by age 31/2. By age 5, Kendall was able to walk on her own with mild assistance. At age 8, Kendall started competing in the North Carolina Special Olympics.
"The joy and support that teachers and volunteers gave to Kendall at her first Special Olympics brought me to tears. I cried through the whole thing. It humbles me," said Davis.
Kendall's first event that day, the 25-meter assisted walk, "was like watching a miracle," said Davis. Kendall's first physical therapist from Park View and the former director for Exceptional Children in the Mooresville Graded School District were there. They had not seen Kendall since she was 5.
As volunteers for the Special Olympics, they cheered Kendall and greeted her at the end of the race.
"Kendall walked with her teacher assistant while all of us cheered her through every step," said Davis. "Not only the volunteer but many other people came to hug Kendall at the end of the race.
"It overwhelmed my heart to see the joy in Kendall's face, and the love from all of the volunteers."
Taylor's Teammates class motto is "I Can, therefore, I Will."
And they do.