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Summer Games Build Lives, Shape Futures
Largest Contingent in years celebrates 19th year at EKU
2013 Summer Games Logo

The largest group of athletes to compete at the State Summer Games in many years converged on the Eastern Kentucky University campus in Richmond May 31-June 2 when the games were held there for the 19th consecutive year. Nearly 1,300 athletes were on hand for the Games, ready to compete in track and field, swimming, flag football, bocce and rhythmic gymnastics.

Events got underway early on Friday morning well away from campus as the officers who were escorting the "Flame of Hope" to the Opening Ceremonies kicked off the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg at Stewart Home School in Frankfort. More than 70 law enforcement officers and military police lit the "Flame of Hope" and enjoyed lunch with a program by the Stewart Home Students. They later took part in a ceremony at the Police Officers Memorial in Lexington before heading to Richmond.

Jonathan Lynn
2012 Athlete of the Year Jonathan Lynn of Murray lights the cauldron during Opening Ceremonies with the help of US Army Specialist Michael Shepard of Ft. Knox.

For the second year in a row, threatening weather forced the Opening Ceremonies inside Alumni Coliseum, but the move didn't ruin the fun. Emceed by Doug High of ABC36 TV in Lexington and Special Olympics Kentucky Global Messenger Maria Wiese, the Ceremonies included a rousing version of "My Old Kentucky Home" by Special Olympics Kentucky athlete and singer extraordinaire Marlana Van Hoose of Johnson County. There was a performance by Louisville country-rock duo 64West, who also sang the National Anthem. Jeff Hohman of new Summer Games Platinum Sponsor Kentucky's Touchstone Energy Cooperatives gave a tremendous inspirational speech to the athletes. Finally, after Louisville athlete Joe Schweikhardt led the athletes in the athlete oath, the "Flame of Hope" was brought into the Coliseum by the Torch Run officers and 2012 Special Olympics Kentucky Athlete of the Year Jonathan Lynn of Murray lit the cauldron. After 2012 Special Olympics Kentucky Coach of the Year Dennis Gaines declared the Games open, it was time for competition.

This year saw even more competition added on Friday night following the Opening Ceremonies. The new Flag Football Team Skills Competition joined the track distance races and relays, shot put and swimming relays on the Friday night schedule. The Russellville Rush (B), Muhlenberg Mustangs (1A) and Russellville Rumble (2A) claimed the first ever skills competition Gold Medals.

All of the athletes got into the action on Saturday as Bocce and Rhythmic Gymnastics competition got underway, joining the others. And as always, the Games produced competition that was both exciting and inspirational.

Young Athletes
One of the two Young Athletes Program
15-meter dash heats takes off.

Perhaps no result during the day was as fun as the Young Athletes 15-meter dash. This was the second year that members of our Young Athletes Program joined us for the Games, competing in the 15-meter dash and the tennis ball throw. In one of the two 15-meter dash heats, six-year-old Ella Brost and five-year-old Jayla Boggs ran to a dead heat, with both finishing in 7.20 seconds.

The Young Athletes race was one of two dead heats at the track, the second coming in a division of the men's 100-meter Walk. Dakota Barron of the Pulaski Panthers and Joshua Cornelius of Clark County both crossed the line in 46.10 seconds. Among other close finishes at the track, Bowling Green's Colleen Brown edged Eileen Stonefelft by just .02 seconds in their heat of the 100-meter walk, and one division of the 50-meter dash saw Gold and Bronze separated by just .12 seconds. Lawrence Ellis of CAKY Somerset defeated teammate Daniel Weddle by just .01 seconds in a time of 8.24 seconds and Travis Hines of Fayette County Track finished .11 seconds behind Weddle. Three other races saw first and second place separated by less than .05 seconds.

The field events also saw some great finishes. Russell County's Trenton Bray outhrew Madison County's Michael Hoy by a mere one centimeter in the softball throw. In a separate heat, Kim Smith of Meade County outdistanced Mike Aldrich of the CAKY Cobras (Winchester) by only two centimeters.

Close finishes were also common at the pool. In the 100-meter freestyle -- one of the longest individual races at the meet -- Robby Janica of Jessamine County beat Ethan Russell of Stewart Home School to the wall by .03 seconds to claim Gold in a time of 1:49.58. In another heat, Opening Ceremonies emcee Wiese out-touched former World Games swimmer Megan McCormick in a time of 1:26.92 to win by 0.36 seconds.

Thompson and Templeton
Chuck Thompson and Paul Templeton celebrate their Bocce Gold Medal.

On the Bocce courts there were a number of great matches, but a few really stood out, including one Gold Medal match. Tri-County's Steve Heltsley and Stephany Oaks had beaten Pitt Academy's David Booth and Kevin Settles in the round-robin phase of the competition, but found themselves on the ropes to the same pair in the Gold Medal match. A four-point frame had given Booth and Settles a 9-7 lead, but Heltsley and Oaks scored two in each of the next two frames to claim an 11-9 victory and Gold.

In two other divisions, the round-robin winners weren't able to hold their spots. After falling to teammates Zach Tucker and James Plunket in round-robin play, Chuck Thompson and Paul Templeton of Kenton County Bocce knocked off the pair in the Gold Medal match 10-3. And after Cindy Kolarik and Mike Willard of East End (Louisville) Bocce lost a hard-fought match 7-6 to teammates David Wyatt and Kathleen Crumbo to open play in their division, Kolarik and Willard roared in the Gold Medal match, winning 13-3.

Louisville teams dominated the Flag Football competition, taking Gold in four of the seven divisions, including two wins by Pitt Academy teams. The Pitt Rocks and the Pitt Grizzlies won the B-Red division and the 2A-division respectively. The Louisville Flyers 1A team won the 1A-Red Division (defeating another Pitt entry) and the Louisville Wizards won the B-Green division (beating another Louisville Flyers entry). Other teams to take home Gold were the Madison County Terminators (B-Blue), Lexington Colts (1A-Blue) and Northern Kentucky Wolfpack (1A-Green). But the game of the day didn't have anything to do with Gold Medals. In the consolation game of the B-Red division, the Stewart Home School Wildcats and Russellville Rush locked up in an epic battle before Stewart Home pulled out the 21-20 victory in triple overtime.

Rhythmic Gymnastics was among the sports that saw a jump in participation at the Summer Games this year.

Other than the ties at the track, Rhythmic Gymnastics may have produced the closest competition of the Games. Trailing through two events, Nastia Biriovkova of Lexington used a tremendous routine in the ball discipline and another solid routine in the ribbon to slip past Kentucky Gymcats teammate Ashley Bias by a score of 21.8 to 21.7. In another division, Courtney Davis of Rhythmic Spirit (Northern Ky.) had an excellent routine in ball that gave her a solid lead going into the final ribbon event. She was barely able to hold on as teammate Jennifer Rhein came storming back, but Davis' lead held up and she won the Gold by a score of 27.45 to 27.0.

Even when athletes weren't competing during the Games, there was plenty to do. Olympic Town once again offered a great way to spend time with family and friends, playing games, working on craft projects, dancing or singing karaoke.

Healthy Athletes
Healthy Athletes screenings like this one
at the FunFitness tent are an important
part of the Summer Games and
Olympic Town experience.

The Healthy Athletes Wellness Village sponsored by the Anthem Foundation was back as an important part of the Olympic Town experience. Athletes received hundreds of health screenings, including vision, dental, hearing, foot health and physical fitness and flexibility screenings. All screenings were provided free of charge by volunteers trained to work with people with disabilities. Healthy Athletes helps to overcome some of the obstacles that people with intellectual disabilities often face in receiving health services.

Like the Opening Ceremonies, the Closing Ceremonies were forced inside by the threat of bad weather. And like the Opening Ceremonies, the move did nothing to diminish the athletes' enthusiasm. There were cheers for the pentathletes who find out their results and receive their medals at Closing Ceremonies. After that there was nothing but fun as everyone took part in the annual Victory Dance organized by youth volunteers from Calvary Christian Church in Winchester and DJed by Kerry Azbill of A to Z Productions Mobile DJ.

See More Than 8,000 Photos from the 2013 State Summer Games

Our thanks to all of the incredible people, companies and organizations that make the State Summer Games possible -- more than 600 volunteers; Platinum Sponsor Kentucky's Touchstone Energy Cooperatives; Games Sponsor Richmond Tourism; Special Olympics Kentucky Year Round Partners Texas Roadhouse, Ohio Mills and the Kentucky Law Enforcement Torch Run; Madison County Fiscal Court, Chick-fil-A, The Coyote 100.7 FM, The Dog-Hits Now 106.7 FM and Community Alternatives of Kentucky, as well as Blue Ridge Office Products. And of course we have to thank the great people of Eastern Kentucky University. We already can't wait to come back to Richmond for year number 20.

The 2014 State Summer Games are already scheduled for June 6-8, 2014. For more information about the 2014 State Summer Games, or about how you or your company can get involved, contact Special Olympics Kentucky President and CEO Trish Mazzoni at 502-695-8222 or tmazzoni@soky.org.


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