Outside the lines: Athletes give back through track and field

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It&8217;s early morning. As the sun rises in the distance, athletes make their way to the track for the day&8217;s meet. However, they are not stetching their calfves for the 100-yard dash, but testing their stop watch to make sure it works.

The Wolf Pack, a group of local track athletes past and present, come together each year for the Alabama Special Olympics, where they trade in their runners for a stopwatch and whistle. Throughout the day these athletes who battle during the season to compete for personal track success, trade it all in for the selfless act of making sure others, not too much different than themselves, get the same chance.

&8220;If you just talk to them, you&8217;ll find that they&8217;re more like you than you realized,&8221; said Shelby County High middle distance runner Kyle Galutza.

Galutza, who has been involved with special-needs athletes for more than five years, is just one of many over the years that has been asked by his track coach, Jim Barnes to join the Pack.

&8220;He has to ask you,&8221; said Shelby County teammate Aaron Bush. &8220;(Coach Barnes) only recruits people with good character and good grades.&8221;

It takes such people to make an impact at the track, just like

Bush and Galuta did this year as sophomore Wolves.

During this year&8217;s state meet, one athlete stumbled on the track. Bush, whose job was to time the race, ran over to the athlete and encouraged him to finish the race.

&8220;A lot of us do that,&8221; Bush said. &8220;We can&8217;t help them up, but a lot of us have run with the athltetes. He saw me running and just got up and kept going.&8221;

Galuta&8217;s influence began at the starting line, where he bended the starting rules, blowing a whistle instead of firing a starter pistol so as to not heart the ears of the runners who were scared of the gun.

&8220;The gun scares a lot of them.&8221; Galuta said.

The Pack has grown to more than 50 volunteers over the years and is always open to new members. Galuta wouldn&8217;t have it any other way.

&8220;I would suggest that everybody get involved in some kind of Special Olympics, because its a very good experience,&8221; he said