Rockets see victory at Special Olympics Summer Games

Rockets see victory at Special Olympics Summer Games

The Rockets bocce team earned two bronze medals and a gold medal.


Twenty-eight members of the Tuscarawas County Rockets recently returned from the Ohio State University, where they participated in the 50th Special Olympics Ohio Summer Games. By the conclusion of the games on Sunday, June 30, every Rocket was coming home with at least one medal.

The Rockets were among 2,600 athletes from throughout the state who converged on Ohio State's campus for the three-day event. Out of the 13 sports offered including competitive cheerleading as an exhibition sport only this year, the Rockets participated in six. These included athletics (track and field), bocce, bowling, competitive cheerleading, softball throw and volleyball.

The opening ceremonies kicked off Friday night at 7 p.m., bringing law-enforcement agents, sponsors, special guests and spectators from throughout the state of Ohio together to celebrate the impact Special Olympics has made.

In their first year participating in volleyball, the Rockets Unified team emerged victorious, capturing yet another team title. Since 2017 the Rockets have earned state championships in softball, flag football and basketball (back to back).

For the volleyball championship, the Rockets defeated tough Franklin County and Westerville teams. It was team captain Rachael Russell who served an ace to secure the victory for Tuscarawas County. Other members of the team include Rylee Dillon, Craig Gordon, Steven Hazelip, Deric Johnson, Scott Minor and Rachel Paden. The team was coached by Dana DiGenova, Brittany Dillon and Janel Travis.

Competitive cheerleading also made its debut at Summer Games as an exhibition-only event. The squad performed a mixture of cheers and a dance to Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off." The crowd erupted in cheers at the conclusion of their routine. Members of the team include Kaylee Arthurs, Chelsea Lefler, Elizabeth Lippencott, Samantha Mastroine, Alexis Partridge, Rebekah Rothel, Stacey Shroyer, Ginger Stalcup and Nicole Young. The competitive cheer squad was coached by Kat Arthurs.

In athletics Matthew Medley fought his way to a gold-medal finish in the pentathlon and was part of the silver medal 4-by-100 team. Jehred Bennett earned gold in the 100-meter dash and silver medals in the 200-meter dash and 4-by-100 relay. Jason Fickes earned silver medals in the 100-meter dash, softball throw and 4-by-100 relay. Elizabeth Lippencott won silver in the 100-meter walk, and Samantha Mastroine pushed herself to earn gold in the 400-meter run.

Due to scheduling conflicts, both ladies sacrificed their opportunity to participate in the softball throw so they could be there for their cheer squad. Logan Wise received silver in the pentathlon and the 4-by-100 relay. The athletics team was coached by Ashley Metzcar and Christy Bennett.

In bocce the duo of Easton Dillon and Eric Lingo captured gold in an overtime victory. The duos of Miranda Milburn and Shane York and Jacob Jones and Mary Jane Mendoza both earned bronze medals. The bocce team was coached by Shar Miller and Taylor Young.

In bowling Kaylee Arthurs, Lonnie Thornton and Jon Wheeler all won silver medals for their efforts. The bowling team was coached by Heather Menefee.

The Rockets trained throughout April, May and June to prepare for Summer Games. The track and bocce teams participated in meets at Steubenville, Medina, North Canton and Minerva. The bowling team participated in a local tournament held at Wabash. The volleyball team took part in games in Mahoning County and at Oberlin College. Practice sites included the New Philadelphia Quaker Stadium, Starlight School, Advocates for Success, Wabash Lanes and Memorial Hall. A pep rally for the athletes was held on June 27.

When asked about the weekend, Rachael Russell said, "I'm proud of my team. I have learned a lot."

Chelsea Lefler said, "The Rockets are amazing. We cheered for the crowd, and they loved it. I love being part of Special Olympics. It is my life."

Christy Bennett said, "Other than being a mom, this is the most rewarding thing I have ever done. We are honored to be part of the Rockets family."

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