WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — It’s the biggest event of the year!

“I wanna see how it goes this year because this will be my first time doing the Hotter’N Hell and the 25 mile. It’s gonna be a lot of fun,” Special Olympics athlete Miriam Hardie said.

The Hotter’N Hell Hundred is one of the biggest cycling events in the nation and excitement is through the roof for the big race. And while some racers want to break records, come in first place, or beat last year’s time, for one team it’s about something bigger.

“Every chance that we get is exposure for them and for anything they can do to be involved and to really be included and so we just want to keep growing with Hotter’N Hell,” Special Olympics North Texas Program Coordinator Vanesa Alonzo said.

This year our North Texas Special Olympics Team is participating in the big race, giving athletes like Hardie a chance to ride alongside thousands of other racers.

Alonzo says this moment is huge for them, but more importantly, she hopes it inspires others who are just like them.

“Hopefully that participation will see an increase with them being recognized, that there are Special Olympic athletes that do this race,” Alonzo said.

Hardie says they’re calling themselves the Blue Jays and they’ll have riders at all the major races this weekend. The endurance, the 25 mile, and even the 100 mile!

“I’m doing the Hotter’N Hell this year and I’m doing the criterion on Sunday. I also play softball and volleyball,” Hardie said.

For them, it’s all about persevering and overcoming challenges, and knowing that it’s not how you start the race, it’s how you finish.

“Everything about our mission is about inclusion and them knowing that they can do absolutely anything and everything. And so, for us having them included is just a part of everyday life,” Alonzo said.

“It’s exciting because this will be my first time to do anything like this. I have never been to the Special Olympics. When I was a kid and now I moved here. It feels good to have friends, and volunteers, and coaches, and Vanessa and my whole family supporting me,” Hardie said.

And this whole community supports them too!

Click here to learn more about Special Olympics North Texas and how you can volunteer.