Bicyclist Jarrett Brann, left, of Oregon gets support from Xander Shiffert, 9, of Curtice, Ohio. About 600 athletes competed in the games Saturday.
THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
Nickilas Goretzki stepped off the podium with a medal hanging from his neck but with his arms and legs shaking.
“It was difficult: I was a little shaky because I was excited,” the 17-year-old from Toledo, a Rogers High School junior, said as he stretched out his hands, which shook visibly just a few minutes after he finished third in the 100-meter dash. “Look. And my legs are shaking a lot.”
He was one of about 600 Special Olympics athletes from Lucas, Wood, Fulton, Defiance, Erie, Sandusky, Williams, Ottawa, and Paulding counties who participated Saturday in the annual Special Olympics Ohio Area 4 competition at Clay High School in Oregon.
Shari Marcy, 50, of Toledo, the boy’s caregiver, said he was so excited to participate in the competition and so eager to win that he “even asked me to pray for him.” His time was 20.37 seconds, she said, pointing it out on his tag.
And after his race was over, the pair climbed the bleachers and joined scores of others who cheered and waved as they watched others compete.
A qualification meet for the State Summer Games in Columbus from June 28 to 30, the competition included track and field events such as wheelchair events, race-walking, running, shot put, softball throw, and standing long jump.
Other events included volleyball, cycling, and bocce. New this year were the powerlifting events, said Steve Mentrek, the Lucas County Special Olympics coordinator and the community support coordinator for the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities.
“It’s been a phenomenal day,” Mr. Mentrek said, standing with athletes who traded high-fives, grins, and cheers. “The athletes have been having a blast.”
Ashley Friess, 23, of Toledo jumped up and down as she celebrated the gold medal she had received in the softball throw.
“I am happy,” said Ms. Friess, a farmhand at Sunshine Acres in Monclova Township. “It was easy, because I’ve got a good arm throw.”
She threw a softball 25.87 meters — her personal record.
“What’s really amazing about the events today, it’s an opportunity for athletes with disabilities to compete, it improves self-confidence, it improves one’s strength and spirit,” said John Trunk, the county board’s superintendent.
Aaron Reed, 29, of Sandusky, a junior at Bowling Green State University’s Firelands College who placed the first in the 100-meter dash with 16.9 seconds, agreed: “[Winning] was easy because I trained hard for eight weeks.”