It has been almost three years since Special Olympics Ohio held its Summer Games.
While some local programs have continued offering sports, the culminating event that athletes from all over the state look forward to had been put on hold due to COVID regulations and recommendations.
These factors made the Tuscarawas County Rockets' return to Ohio State University for the 2022 Special Olympics Ohio Summer Games all the more meaningful.
The Rockets were represented in four events at this year's Summer Games — bocce, bowling, track & field and volleyball.
Athletes began training in late March and early April. The state office grants quotas to each local program registered for the event and the Rockets were granted spots for 27 athletes. Sixteen volunteers/chaperones also accompanied the athletes.
In bocce, the doubles team of Robert Easlick and Rodney Fuller earned gold medals, while Eric Lingo and Aaron Scott won silver medals and Diana DeMonte and Rebekah Rothel captured bronze medals. The team was coached by David DeMonte and Stephen Meredith.
In bowling, Cayden Ciekanski, Donovan Nolan, and Kershel Zehnder earned silver medals, and Kaylee Arthurs and Chelsea Lefler both won bronze medals. The bowling team was coached by Kat Arthurs, Melanie Ciekanski, Shawn Ciekanski, and David Urdiales. The team was also guided by athlete-leader Alex Adkins.
In track & field, Jehred Bennett won gold in the 100-meter dash, bronze in the 200 and fourth place in the 4x100 relay. Jason Fickes won gold in the 200, fourth in the 4x100 relay and sixth in the 100. Steven Hazelip won gold in the running long jump and fourth place in the mini javelin throw and the 4x100 relay. Shane Johnson won gold in the 100, fourth in the 4x100 relay and fifth in the mini javelin throw.
Elizabeth Lippencott earned fourth in the 100 and 4x100 relay and fifth in the softball throw. Samantha Mastroine won gold in the 200, silver in the 400 and fourth in the 4x100 relay. Aidan McClain won gold in the shot put, silver in the mini javelin throw and fourth in the 4x100 relay. Logan Wise won bronze in the pentathlon and fourth in the 4x100 relay.
The track team was coached by Christy Bennett, Angelica Mendoza, Zach Niven, Mike Travis, Brent Marshall, and Kellie and Chris Rufener.
In volleyball, the Rockets won fourth place. The team consisted of Lucy Cooper, Conner DiGenova, Joey Fulton, Craig Gordon, Allison Halsey, Brandon Miller, and Rachael Russell. The team was coached by Janel Travis and Sarah McVey.
Over the course of the weekend, the Rockets participated in the Opening Ceremonies Parade of Athletes, several social events, Healthy Athletes stations, activities planned by organizations such as The Moose Association and team meals. Four of the Rockets were gifted with new pairs of professionally fitted tennis shoes by JD Finish Line. Adkins was selected to represent the Rockets in delivering a gift for longtime state office employee, Jeff Vermillion, who recently retired after 34 years of service.
Coach Christy Bennett said that this was one of the best Summer Games she has been involved in and athlete Cayden Ciekanski added that he was proud of himself for earning the silver in bowling.
Local coordinator, Richelle Lefler shared that the weekend would be impossible without the combined efforts of everyone involved.
"Teamwork makes the dream work for sure."
Sponsors for the Rockets' trip to Summer Games include Advocates for Success, The Ruth Carlson-Starlight Foundation, and The Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities.
The Rockets also held fundraisers to help pay for the costs.
The next sport the Rockets will participate in is softball.
Practices were set to begin on June 30. Any questions can be directed to Richelle at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on The Times-Reporter: Tuscarawas Co. Rockets compete in Special Olympics Ohio Summer Games