Three athletes left the Island Friday morning in their purple and white warm-up suits, high socks and caps, each in their numbered T-shirts, carrying their black sports bags, having trained since September for this day of competition. Before the events, their coach read them “pump-ups,” the letters fellow students write encouraging the athletes to “go for it” and “don’t give up.” When they arrived in Mashpee for the state competition, their bus was greeted with cheers, they were given more T-shirts and water bottles and a place to prepare.

Then Celeste Ewing, Elke Klein and Austin Simonin carried a banner, professionally made and signed by many supporters, in the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics.

Before it was over, they were called up one by one to receive their medals.

“In my 25 years of teaching and coaching this was the most amazing, wonderful day,” said physical education teacher Lisa Knight yesterday, “and that includes state tournaments and everything.

Austin Elke Celeste
Austin Simonin, Elke Klein, and Celeste Ewing carry banner with their coaches at opening ceremonies — Chris Ewing

“To see Celeste run the whole 100 yards, which I don’t think she had ever done before that day, and to watch Elke putting her hands in the air saying, ‘I did it!’ and Austin, who decided he was going to throw that softball five or six times . . . they had worked so hard and they honestly did the best they possibly could, which is what we had talked about and they really did,” Ms. Knight said, choking up.

“It was all goosebumps, all day,” she said, “and smiles and hugs and ‘I-love-yous’ and high-fives. It was incredible.”

Special Olympics
Chris Ewing

Her sentiments were echoed by many of those involved with this most special Vineyard team.

“They represented the Vineyard as athletes,” said Anne Lemenager, who has chronicled their progress on video all year. “It was one of the best days I’ve ever had, and I’ve been in education for 34 years. From the opening ceremonies, the emcee, the torch, the color guard, this was an up day.”

Elke’s mother, Robin Tuck, said the team received their warm-up suits the day before; Elke put hers straight on and didn’t want to take it off even to sleep the night before the games.

“She told me she looked like a cool kid,” said Ms. Tuck.

Likewise, she had to peel the suit off her daughter Friday night and convince her to hang the medal next to her bed.

Ms. Tuck was impressed with the coaches’ dedication to making the a real team. “It was lighter, but it was not just some silly thing. They trained them, prepared them, gave them pep talks . . . I was just so impressed and moved by the gym teachers, the fans, everything.

“So many days you come home from events and feel a little bit sad, if your kid maybe couldn’t do what other kids could. Here, they were just flying around those stations, just doing it all.”

Colin Ewing, Celeste’s father, was one of about 25 supporters who declared the day “fabulous.”

“They competed in 10 events, and it was all fun stuff. Celeste kept showing everyone her medal — I’ve never seen her run so fast!”

Her mother, Chris Ewing, called it incredible and praised the fans and especially the teachers who helped the team. “Lisa Knight started training the kids in September and carried it through,” she said.

For her part, Ms. Knight gave credit to Ms. Lemenager, paraprofessional Ann Nevin, athletics director Sandy Mincone, assistant athletics director James Maseda, and particularly life skills teacher Laura deBettencourt.

“Laura is an incredible inspiration to me. She has helped me to love teaching all over again.

“We were high-fiving each other all day, too.

“Kids were coming up to us and saying ‘This is my best day, I love you,’ and all I could say was, ‘It’s my best day too, and I love you’ . . . I needed some dark sunglasses that day. But none of it was sad tears, It was awesome.”

It was the first time the school participated in the games since Nancy Shemeth and Arthur Cormier took kids decades ago. Ms. Lemenager said adaptive phys-ed classes had been lost to budget cuts but were reinstated this year.

“The whole school really rallied for us,” Ms. Knight said. “They were making announcements all week, people were coming up to them in the hall saying good luck, they put it on the sign out front. But not just that week — Jimmy Maseda, I asked him for a sort of gutter full of water so we could practice racing boats and the next day it was there. It was a total community effort.”

But the biggest effort was that of Celeste, Elke and Austin. “And if you could have seen the grins on their faces . . . I am so proud of them.”