SANTA MARIA, Calif. -

The Special Olympics flame burned bright on the Central Coast on Thursday helping light the way to breaking down barriers in society.

The annual Special Olympics Regional Spring Games returned to the Santa Maria Valley.

The host Pioneer Valley High School Panther Marching Ban set the stage for the return of the annual Special Olympics Spring Games.

More than 120 student athletes from Santa Maria Valley area high schools and special needs programs participated.

After the singing of the national anthem, and the lighting of the Special Olympics flame, it was time to let the games begin.

There was the standing long jump, the running long jump, the softball throw
and the sprint competition on the track.

"I think its a huge deal to them you know", says Rudy Gutierrez of the City of Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department and organizer of the Northern Santa Barbara County Special Olympics Spring Games, "they get to come out, they've been training for weeks leading up to this day, they get to come out and show off their skills and what they've been working on, kind of show to everyone else they can do anything just like any other person."

Not only do the athletes look forward to the annual games, their parents do as well.

"To see them all happy and trying their best its happy, its really exciting", says Ramona Ruiz who's 18 year old participated.

"Happiness, simple joys, that's what life is all about", adds parent Werlie Alfonso, "to be with your children and to support them."

Some of the local Special Olympians will be part of a delegation to the larger, Summer Special Olympics next month at USC in Los Angeles.

Slideshow: PVHS Hosts Special Olympics Spring Games

POSTED: 06:07 PM PDT May 22, 2014 
More than 120 student-athletes participate in annual event.
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