Thirty-two Lake Havasu athletes, along with their coaches and chaperones, traveled to venues in the Surprise and Sun City West areas for two days of competition at the 43rd Special Olympics Arizona 2013 Fall Games. Opening ceremonies were held at Surprise Stadium, highlighted by the Law Enforcement Torch Run final lap, a large fireworks display and a dance.
More than 1,400 athletes from 66 teams around the state participated in this annual event. Other Mohave County teams include Kingman and Bullhead City.
The Lake Havasu athletes culminated four months of practice exemplifying the Special Olympic motto of “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt”.
The largest contingent from Lake Havasu City was the swim team. The “Sharks”, competing under the coaching of Kim Sweet, were awarded five gold, ten silver and two bronze medals. Competition was held over two days at the Sunrise Recreation Aquatic Center.
Gold medals wins went to Angel Swentik, Kenny Hawthorne, Michael Carton and Bryan Smith in the 4x25 Medley Relay. Samantha Ross, swimming the 25M Freestyle in her first year in “the deep end,” captured a gold medal.
The Sharks 25M Freestyle Relay team, composed of Nicole Haskell, Holly Black, Heidi Rahnefeld and Kristal Cascio achieved the silver medal. Swentik, Hawthorne, Cascio and Black earned silver in the 25m Free Style. Also taking the silver were Carton in the 50M Freestyle and Cascio in the 25M Backstroke.
Bronze medals were awarded to Swentik in the 25M Backstroke and Hawthorne in the 50M Backstroke.
Coach Sweet felt that the weeks of practice paid off and “they all not only worked hard in their strokes, but had fun doing it.”
Silver and bronze were the winning medals for Havasu athletes at the Fall Games, with the bocce players coached by Don Bergen, competing at the R.H. Johnson Recreation Center Sun Dial Bocce Club in Sun City West.
Bocce is a very old, yet reenergized game, which has grown in popularity. In Lake Havasu City, bocce courts are found at Rotary Park, Yonder Park and the Senior Center, which are especially active in the cooler months.
The Lake Havasu “Rolling Thunder” bocce athletes were paired up into four doubles teams. There were four to five teams in each division.
The bocce doubles players taking home the silver were the teams of Lee DeLaGarza — Sue Trimmer, and Josh Schwartz — Claudia Kirmil. Bronze medals went to Dempsey Nail — Sherrie Fisher and Shane Philo — William Kawa.
Brianna Rule, a first-year bocce athlete, was paired with another athlete from Holbrook, and they were awarded fourth place in their set.
Coach Don Bergen noted that “in watching each player, I could see that they had all paid close attention to the many weeks of training. They all performed to their highest ability.”
The third contingent competing at the State competition was the “Blazers” softball team under Head Coach Scott Woodson, competing at Surprise Farms Community Park.
A total of 20 teams participated, with approximately 240 athletes. Based on new and improved Team Assessment Forms, teams were placed in one of four divisions based on ability. Havasu was in Division III.
The softball games Friday were heat-qualifying games leading to the championship event occurring Saturday. In the Friday preliminaries, the Blazers lost their game against the Peoria Bombers, 14-7. They then bounced back to win the next two games; 8-1 against the Chandler Gold and 7-2 against the Blythe Bandits.
The Havasu Blazers then played Saturday against a tough Tucson Marauders team and were defeated, 11-2. Last year, the Blazers also lost their final game to Tucson.
With Justin Gooley doing most of the pitching, backed up by Christina Whitehead, the other players were Jackie Wirz, Ben Norfolk, Kristen Matthews, Ron Allen, Thomas Gooley, Keith Gilbreath, Christopher Orey, Roxi Harshman and Patrick Harris.
Coach Woodson said he was impressed by how much his players’ optimism after the first loss and entered the second game enthusiastically and “ready to win.”
Lake Havasu City also provided athletes for Softball Skills competition, coached by Roberta Shull.
Gold medals were awarded to Mike Zapatocky and Dempsey Nail; Silver to Sherrie Fisher; while William Kawa and David Vinquist took the Bronze.
Special Olympics is for persons ages eight and up with mental retardation and closely related intellectual disabilities.
Lake Havasu Special Olympics offers a year-round program involving nine different sports. Volunteers are very much needed, working with the athletes, telephoning, chaperoning, and with paper work.
The new season begins next month with basketball and cheerleading. Special Olympics bowling is currently in practice at Havasu Lanes.
For further information about LHC Special Olympics, a United Way Agency, call Head of Delegation Chris Bergen at 680-0052.
Don Bergen submitted story.