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STRIDE Challenge brings winter motivation to SOMT athletes

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By Taylor Davison / Valley Journal

MONTANA — Special Olympics of Montana is celebrating their third year of the STRIDE Challenge, inviting athletes involved in the organization throughout Montana to get active. 

An eight-week endeavor, the virtual challenge got its start in 2021 when the ongoing pandemic caused organizers to think outside the box when it came to setting up challenges that wouldn’t put their athletes at risk. With a mission to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics of Montana turned to the virtual world to keep providing their athletes with opportunities during the worst of COVID-19. 

Starting on Feb. 6 this year, the distance challenge invites athletes to run, walk, or roll in their wheelchairs on their own, in a traditional pair or unified pair with a support person, or join up in a four-person team to try and reach the top of the leaderboard. Open to all ages of Special Olympic athletes, the top three finishers in each division will each receive a prize. 

A new development in STRIDE this year is extra attention to working with the Unified Champion Schools department at SOMT. According to a statement from the organization, “Special Olympics Unified Schools promote meaningful social inclusion by bringing young people with and without intellectual disability together to create school communities that are accepting of all students using an inclusive sports model, Special Olympics Unified Sports.”

Athletes who sign up can do so up until the start date of Feb. 6 and will receive a tracker for their exercise, as well as a manual that includes suggested goals, instructions for measuring and tracking distances and even “other ways to go the distance” and earn steps through other activities besides walking. Exercises like jumping rope, playing basketball and even bowling can be counted toward an athlete’s distance. The manual includes a chart with the number of corresponding steps allowed for a given activity and gives instructions for multiplying the number of minutes participated by corresponding number of steps allowed. Participants should complete their tracking on Sunday and send it in Monday to be counted toward the leaderboards. 

To sign up, contact Mallory Frank at: or call 406-315-4230. “I just started in October, so I’m excited to see this,” Frank commented. 

To check the weekly leaderboards, visit the Special Olympics Montana Facebook page at: 

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