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Special Olympics torch run set to pass through North County

OCEANSIDE — The Special Olympics torch run will pass through North County coastal cities May 29 as it heads to the summer games in Long Beach. 

Oceanside police officers will be handed the torch by Carlsbad officers at the Carlsbad, Oceanside border along Coast Highway 101 at about 9 a.m.

Thirty Oceanside officers will run in formation alongside the torch as it’s carried through Oceanside to the front gate of Camp Pendleton and continues to the summer games held at California State University, Long Beach June 8 and June 9.

The Oceanside stretch of the torch run is about 4 miles.

Oceanside neighborhood policing officer Robert Moore has participated in the annual torch run for eight years.

He said officers go as fast as the slowest runner in the group and average a 10-minute mile.

Special Olympic athletes join the torch run for part of each city leg. Support vehicles escort the group and pick up tired runners.

“It’s an honor,” Moore said. “The event runs in every city throughout the United States.”

The torch run marks the beginning of summer games and raises funds for the Special Olympics. Police, firefighters, FBI agents and border patrol officers who wish to support the Special Olympics donate $20 and receive an event T-shirt. Some donate more.

Next year online donations can be made to sponsor a torch runner and raise additional funds for the Special Olympics.

“All money generated in Southern California supports athletes in Southern California,” Moore said. “You really don’t know what you’re supporting until you go to one of their events.”

The Special Olympics Southern California games draw 1,200 athletes who compete in six summer sports including swimming, track and field, gymnastics, basketball and golf.

Special Olympic athletes who have competed in local games are randomly selected to play in the regional Southern California games.

“It’s a random selection so different athletes get to go every year,” Kelcie Kopf, development manager for Special Olympics Southern California, said. “We start at age 8 and don’t have an upper age limit. We have some athletes in their 70s and 80s.”

Competitors are matched up by sport, gender, ability and age.

“There’s a wide variety of divisioning,” Kopf said. “We have athletes with record setting meter races and athletes scoring perfect bowling games.”