Pasco sheriff's Deputy David Rodriguez ran through the streets of Dade City Friday morning with about 15 other athletes who left several others far behind.
"Hey guys,'' he shouted, "let's go get them caught up.''
His runners turned around on Sixth Street and retraced a city block of the 2.5 miles they had just finished in the Torch Run for Special Olympics. They joined up with the others and together, they tore through a finish line banner while a crowd cheered.
Tony Wiggins, 20, and Andres Torres, 24, were the first through. Wiggins, of Dade City, said breaking the banner felt like good luck. The run, organized by the Pasco Sheriff's Office, was a send-off for the athletes headed to Orlando for the state-wide Special Olympics on May 17. Wiggins will be competing in soccer.
"These are kids that are just as excited about going to Orlando as somebody getting drafted (into pro sports),'' Rodriguez said.
The run started at Pasco High School at 9 a.m. and wound around the city to end at the Historic Courthouse.
About 100 people representing law enforcement agencies, high schools and Pasco Hernando Community College's police academy made their way through a light rain, many taking turns carrying an Olympic-style torch called "The Flame of Hope.''
Just as the runners hit the finish line, the sun burned through the clouds and the rain let up. Their clothes still damp, they huddled around Rodriguez on a sidewalk near the courthouse and cheered for the athletes going on to the state games.
Katelynn Miller, 19, of Holiday was one of the group. She's competing in bicycle racing and a 5K run in Orlando.
"I'm an athlete, and I like running and I like Special Olympics," she said. "That's why I wanted to come and run."
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