Athletes ooze enthusiasm at Ohio Special Olympics

Hayden Thomas runs for the gold medal in the 50-meter run.
Hayden Thomas runs for the gold medal in the 50-meter run.

(Posted June 30, 2016)

And a child shall lead them.

As a 9-year-old, Hayden Thomas was the youngest athlete to represent Madison County in the 2016 Special Olympics State Games, held on the campus of The Ohio State University.

Small in stature, but big on enthusiasm, the Madison County Tiger showed heart in earning gold medals in the 50-meter run and the softball throw. The young boy with Down syndrome was the only Tiger to capture two first-place finishes.

“Hayden was so enthused with this being his first year,” said Tigers track coach Caternia Pierce. “They all did a wonderful job.”

Joining Thomas in earning individual gold were shot-putter David Lambert and bowler Virginia Smalley.

Ascending collectively to the top of the winners’ podium were the Tigers’ Black Unified volleyball team. Members of the squad were John Zeeck, Chris Zeeck, Lincoln Comer, Mike Ellis, Shawn Stewart and Alexis Comer.

A pair of bocce duos paced Madison County’s silver medal winners: Leah McCarter/Debbilyn Ewald and Jeff Horn/Mindy Morris. Others earning silver were John Knapp (100-meter run), Dominique Gonzalez (100-meter walk), David Lambert (100-meter run), Nick Dummitt (shot put), Laura Cotton (100-meter walk), Rebecca Bell (softball throw), and Shawn Engle (shot put).

Also, Bobby Higgins captured second in three categories of Madison County’s newest Special Olym-pics representation—powerlifting. Higgins gathered silver in bench press, deadlift and combination lifts.

A second Tigers Unified volleyball squad played their way to third place. Members of that team were Nate Gonzalez, Jamie Todd, Logan Todd, Nick Brown, Kendra Fox, Chris Fox, Jacey Hamilton, Jessie Thompson, Waymond Harris, Paul Hiles, Mike Long and Mike Elfrink.

Others earning bronze were Knapp (softball throw), Hunter Price (shot put, 100-meter run), Kody Price (deadlift), Brian Farris (bowling), Jeff McCarty (bowling), Cotton (softball throw), Gonzalez (softball throw), and Dawn O’Neil/Wilson (bocce). Also getting bronze was a 4×100 relay team of Hunter Price, Lambert, Engle and Dummitt.

A number of other athletes earned Special Olympics ribbons for finishing in fourth place or beyond. They included Shaundra Sayre (100-meter run, shot put), Dummitt (100-meter run), Bell (100-meter walk), Engle (100-meter run), Charlie Gildow (bowling), Keith Farris (bowling), Kody Price (bench press, combination), Jacob Kuhn (bench press, deadlift, combination), and Duncan Gholson (bench press).

Assisting and training the athletes were the following volunteer coaches for Madison County Special Olympics—Caternia Pierce, Wesley Pierce, Judy Coy, Shanda Horace, Jessica Rutherford, Darryl Brown, Susan Thompson, Melody Williams, Bobbi McCarty, Harold Stockman, Stan Oliver and Linda Gildow.

To show their support, local law enforcement officers provided the athletes with a meal Friday before they headed off for their weekend of competition. This coincided with the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run. Sponsors included Phat Daddy’s, Subway, Walmart, BP, Casey’s Carryout & Drive-Thru, KFC, Kroger, and Terry Family Ice Cream.

“I would like to thank the entire community for a wonderful turnout,” said Lincoln Comer, recreation coordinator for the Madison County Board of Developmental Disabilities. “A special thanks to the many volunteers who made this a safe and enjoyable weekend.”

For more information about Madi-son County Special Olympics, contact Comer at (740) 852-7052, ext. 1917.

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