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Taylor Klanke, from Miles City, spent about 30 minutes chatting happily with other Special Olympics Montana athletes Wednesday morning while he waited for the awards ceremony to begin on a lawn at Rocky Mountain College.

He noted when other competitors from his area were announced and asked the team in front of him, from Havre, about how their day was going.

"I like this because I'm always meeting new people," said Klanke, 20.

He'd just received a silver medal for his division in the shot put after slapping high-fives with a pair of law enforcement officers and posing for a few quick snapshots.

Klanke is one of more than 1,000 athletes from all over Montana in Billings for the Special Olympics Montana State Summer Games, which kicked off on Wednesday and continue through Friday in Billings.

Events at Rocky — one of about a half-dozen locations around town that hosted competitions Wednesday — included soccer and throwing events like the shot put and softball throws and the Turbo-Jav, a sort of modified javelin.

Dani Dorman and Kimberly Brown traveled to Billings from Western Montana for the games with their team, the Kalispell Krushers.

Sporting bright orange shirts plastered with the team name, the pair took first and second in place in the women's shot put for their age division.

"I've been doing Special Olympics since I was 8 years old," said Dormen, 22. "I'm actually a pretty good competitor, and I really like the competition."

Brown said that for her, it's not as much about the competition.

"I just do it for the fun and to be around my friends," she said.

Terri Beyl traveled to Billings from Miles City to watch her son, 17-year-old Rocky Smith, compete. They've been attending the summer games for eight years and it's become more than just a series of events for them.

"We get together with friends and people we've gotten to know over the years," she said. "Like some of the officers with the Law Enforcement Torch Run that we know, they're pretty much like family. This pretty much is the only time we get to see some of them."