Not many athletes will tell you that they got to the starting line all by themselves.   Usually they have someone to thank.  It's no different at the City of Erie Winter Special Olympics.  Standing with those athletes today at Peek 'n Peak were some new friends from Mercyhurst University.  100 students from Mercyhurst volunteered to help the Special Olympics skiers get to the starting line and to cheer them on during the races.  Cole Lowe, Mercyhurst Senior,  is in charge of rounding up volunteers.  He says his job is easy.

"The students that do it, they just come to me.  I really don't have much publicity I have to do.  They come to me.  The students at Mercyhurst University are just exceptional and extraordinary," Lowe said.

Mercyhurst Juniors Alex O'Donnell and Emily Cross spent time giving last minute pointers to middle school student Anthony Atkinson before his cross country race.  Anthony looked shaky during the training session, but you could see his confidence shining through at the starting line.
   

The training paid off. Anthony won his heat.

"He was falling over a little bit, as any first timer would, but we gave him a couple of tips and he was ready to go come match time.  So it was pretty fun," O"Donnell said.

"I was so proud of him.  He was struggling.  We were teaching him in the big snow, so it was even harder.  Then, when he got on the smooth surface, his skis were straight, his poles were right, and he was the winner," Cross said.

This is the second year in a row  that Mercyhurst University has sent 100 volunteers to help with the Special Olympics Winter Games.     Anthony Atkinson's race is just one example of why the athletes, and the Mercyhurst volunteers, keep coming back again and again.  Mercyhurst Junior Taylor Cavaretta looked forward today's events.

"I'm not one for the snow and the cold weather, but once I got here and I got to interact with all the athletes, I just thought it was such a great experience.  I couldn't wait again for this year," she said.