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SEASPAR athletes go for gold at Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games

Jul 03, 2018 09:02AM

Artistic Gymnast Kari Winter of Downers Grove celebrates after accepting the second of four medals she earned at the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games.

Downers Grove, Ill. (July 2, 2018) – Nineteen athletes trained by the South East Association for Special Parks And Recreation (SEASPAR) earned a combined 29 medals at the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games in Bloomington-Normal, Ill. June 15-17.

The Summer Games is the largest of the more than 175 Special Olympics competitions held throughout Illinois each year, and is the final state competition for Athletics (track and field), Bocce, Gymnastics, Powerlifting, Soccer, and Swimming. Over 4,000 athletes competed at the event at the Illinois State University campus. SEASPAR was represented in all six sports by a total of 19 athletes.

Twelve of these athletes competed in the sport of Swimming. SEASPAR’s two youngest competitors, Aidan Metzl of Woodridge and Conor Mulcahy of La Grange, both 10 years old, each earned a gold medal in their respective divisions in the 25M Backstroke event at their very first state competition.

Sam Smetko of La Grange Park earned gold in the 50M Backstroke event. Smetko competes in the top division of this event, and with this year’s win, maintains his position as the top swimmer in this event for Special Olympics in the state of Illinois. Smetko also earned silver in the 4X100M Freestyle Relay event with teammates Mark Ploskonka and Chris Tegeler of Darien, and William Porch of Westmont. Porch also earned gold in his division of the 50M Backstroke event.

SEASPAR’s other medalists in Swimming were Nathan Buresch of Downers Grove (gold, 25M Freestyle), Adam Sikora of Lisle (bronze, 25M Breaststroke), and Daniel Smrokowski of La Grange Park (bronze, 50M Freestyle). Rounding out SEASPAR’s delegation in the sport of Swimming were Jason Grudem of Woodridge, Samantha Henderson of Naperville, and Ryan McGuire of La Grange.

The two Powerlifting athletes trained by SEASPAR earned multiple medals. Emily Lundvall of Westmont took gold in her division of the Bench Press and Combination events, and bronze in the Deadlift event. This was Lundvall’s fifth year competing and earning gold at Summer Games, and she set new personal bests in both Bench Press (90 pounds) and Deadlift (135 pounds). Allen Rosete of Darien, a second-time Powerlifting competitor, earned gold medals in his division of the Deadlift and Combination events, and a bronze medal in the Bench Press event. He set a new personal best in Deadlift with a lift of 135 pounds.

“I love the Summer Games,” said 23-year-old Rosete, who has Down syndrome and has also trained in Special Olympics Athletics, Bocce, Basketball, Bowling, and Flag Football. “I love my coaches. They’re the best ever. My mom was proud of my medals.”

SEASPAR’s two Artistic Gymnastics competitors also earned multiple medals. Anna Cavallo of Downers Grove took gold in her divisions of the Balance Beam, Floor Routine, and All Around events, silver in Vault, and bronze in Uneven Bars. Kari Winter, also of Downers Grove, took gold in her divisions of the Balance Beam, Uneven Bars, and All Around events, and silver in Floor Exercise. This was both athletes’ third year competing in Level 2 Artistic Gymnastics at Summer Games.

One SEASPAR athlete participated in the Soccer competition on a cooperative team representing SEASPAR and the Lily Cache Special Recreation Association, which serves the Bolingbrook and Plainfield Park Districts. Nate Church of La Grange advanced with his teammates to the championship game in their division, but it was unfortunately canceled due to extreme heat. This was the team’s sixth year qualifying for Summer Games.

SEASPAR was represented by one competitor in Athletics (track and field). At the age of 60, Randy Naberhaus of Woodridge was the oldest athlete from SEASPAR’s region to qualify for Summer Games in this sport, and did so in the Mini Javelin and 50M Assisted Race events. Unfortunately, the 50M Assisted Race event was canceled due to extreme heat, but Naberhaus earned a silver medal in his division of Mini Javelin.

In the sport of Bocce, SEASPAR athlete Ron Kamper of Indian Head Park earned a silver medal in the Traditional Singles event.

“Qualifying for Summer Games is an incredible feat for our Special Olympics athletes,” said Matthew Corso, Executive Director of SEASPAR. “These sports are extremely competitive, and it takes months of training – if not years – for our athletes to reach their full potential. It’s not only about building their athletic ability, but also about building their confidence to compete in front of judges, their peers, and crowds of strangers. Advancing to a state competition requires a great deal of devotion from the athletes, their families, and our coaches, and whether they end up in first place or last, we’re incredibly proud of what they achieved just to get there.”

SEASPAR trains athletes for Special Olympics competitions in Alpine Skiing, Athletics (track and field), Basketball, Bocce, Bowling, Flag Football, Floor Hockey, Golf, Gymnastics, Powerlifting, Soccer, Softball, Snowshoeing, Swimming, Tennis, and Volleyball. SEASPAR’s athletes compete in Special Olympics events throughout the year.

For more information about SEASPAR’s Special Olympics program or other recreational programs and services for individuals with disabilities, visit SEASPAR.org or call 630-960-7600.

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