COLUMBUS — While it was raining outside, they were reigning inside.
Summer rains couldn’t dampen the spirits of some local Special Olympics athletes who prepared several months for the opportunity presented to them.
While many athletes had to concentrate on dodging the precipitation this weekend during the annual Ohio Special Olympics State Games, a group from Madison County athletes took their talents inside and came away with a gold medal. The State Games were held on the campus of The Ohio State University.
Inside OSU’s Recreation and Physical Activity Center (RPAC), the Madison County Tigers Unified Volleyball team flooded the court with outstanding plays as it captured first place in a competitive division — its first since 2011. The Tigers are affiliated with the Madison County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Members of the triumphant squad included John Zeeck, Bryan Thompson, Mike Ellis, Shawn Stewart, Marley Long, Megan Long, Chris Zeeck and Lincoln Comer.
After beating Westerville in two sets in the semifinals, the Tigers then played the Northwest Superstars for the title.
In the championship, Madison County lost the first set 25-23 but bounced back to win the final two.
“After letting the first set get away the team really pulled it together,” said Comer, Recreation Coordinator for Madison County Board of Developmental Disabilities. “Everyone really played well, staying positive after going down a set, making sure we picked each other up after a bad play, and celebrating all the good ones.”
They were just a small portion of the Madison County contingent that found success in various venues across the OSU campus. In all, the Tigers earned 37 medals and 19 ribbons.
Joining the volleyballers on the top of the awards podium were a quartet of Tigers bowlers — Paul Hiles, Jeff McCarty, Virginia Smalley and Mike Williams. Also gathering gold medals in individual events were Shaundra Sayre (100m run), Marlyn Zeeck (softball throw), Brian Farris (softball throw), Connor Warnock (100m run), Hunter Price (running long jump) and Bobby Higgins (200m run). The 4×100 relay team of Higgins, Kody Price, Shawn Engle and Nick Dummitt also placed first. The majority of the track and field events took place in OSU’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
The tracksters remained strong despite the unpredictable weather.
“Many of our track athletes had to endure the wind and rain over the weekend — which is no easy feat,” Comer said. “But despite Mother Nature’s attempts I believe the athletes had a great time.”
Earning silver medals were Dummitt (shot put), Sayre (shot put), Keith Farris (softball throw), Laura Cotton (100m walk) and Higgins (100m run). The bocce duo of Dale Jones and Jacob Kuhn threw their way to a second-place finish.
The bocce team of Debbie Lee and Chester Roberts were among the Madison County athletes who won the bronze. Others included Engle (shot put), Brian Farris (100m walk), Warnock (running long jump), Kody Price (shot put), Hunter Price (100m run) and Keith Farris (100m walk).
The Tigers earned a number of fourth through sixth place ribbons as well. Earning the ribbons were Dummitt (100m run), Engle (100m run), Kody Price (100m run), Cotton (softball throw), Charlie Gildow (bowling), as did the bocce duos of David Howard/Rebecca Dozier and Dawn O’Neal/Leah McCarter.
Rounding out the ribbon recipients was the second of Madison County’s unified volleyball squads. Team members included Geoff DeLong, Elle Scott, Basilia Gonzalez, John Todd, Logan Todd, Dominique Gonzalez, Nick Brown, Kendra Chapman, Mike Long and Mike Elfrink.
The coaches and volunteers for Madison County were Caternia Pierce, Wesley Pierce, Stan Oliver, Judy Coy, Shanda Horace, Jessica Rutherford, Libby Johnson, Liam Comer, Jacey Hamilton, Darryl Brown, Bobbi McCarty, Harold Stockman and Linda Gildow.
The Tigers were just part of close to 2,700 athletes from Ohio who participated in the Special Olympics State Games.
“It is because of our community’s wonderful support that our athletes can enjoy such a fantastic weekend,” Comer said. “I would also like to thank all the coaches, volunteers and Unified partners for all their help during Summer Games weekend — it doesn’t happen without them.”
If you are interested in learning more about Special Olympics or volunteering, please contact Madison County Board of Developmental Disabilities Recreation Coordinator Lincoln Comer at 740-852-7052, ext. 1917.
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