County swimmers medal in state Special Olympics Summer Games

By on June 29, 2016
Special Olympics Lancaster County swim team members (left to right): Andrew Figari, Tommy Levosky, Shelly Pierson, Marty Zeamer, Maggie Cunliffe, Chloe Phillips, Tim Hubach and Jeanne Ulmer. Not pictured: coaches Kerri Hample, Taylor Wilson, Jesse Krueger, Anne Phillips

Special Olympics Lancaster County swim team members (left to right): Andrew Figari, Tommy Levosky, Shelly Pierson, Marty Zeamer, Maggie Cunliffe, Chloe Phillips, Tim Hubach and Jeanne Ulmer. Not pictured: coaches Kerri Hample, Taylor Wilson, Jesse Krueger, Anne Phillips

 

Summer is beginning on a high note for the eight swimmers on Special Olympics Lancaster County’s swim team. Each team member medaled in Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s 47th annual Summer Games held June 2 through 4 at Penn State University, University Park.

The event drew over 2,000 athletes, 750 coaches and 1,000 volunteers from around the state. This year marked the 29th consecutive year that Penn State University hosted Summer Games. The three-day event included aquatics, athletics, basketball, bowling, equestrian sports, golf, gymnastics, softball and tennis competitions.

Anne Phillips, a Special Olympics Lancaster County spokesperson, said that the eight swimmers that represented Lancaster County competed both in team relay events and individual races.

“Ranging in age from 18 to 42, these swimmers had one goal in mind; to do their very best at the competition,” she said. “All swimmers in Special Olympics must swim the strokes correctly, and PIAA officials watched closely during the games to ensure that they did.”

Phillips said that the team’s most experienced swimmers are her daughter, Chloe Phillips, Manheim; and Maggie Cunliffe, Lititz. In addition to being part of organization’s team, they also participate in summer swim leagues and on the swim teams of their high schools.

At the Summer Games, Cunliffe competed in the 50-meter backstroke, 50-meter breaststroke and the 100-meter freestyle. She helped score the silver in the team relay. Chloe Phillips swam in her first individual medley (IM) race, a race where competitors swim a lap of each of the four strokes. She won the silver in that event and went on to earn bronze in the 50-meter butterfly and 200-meter freestyle.

“I love competing,” Chloe said. “Swimming is a lifelong sport, and I am looking forward to practicing for next year. I rested for two days after the competition at the summer games, but got back in the pool today to work on improving my kick for the freestyle event.”

Lititz resident Andrew Figari brought home a gold in team medley relay and two silver medals — one for the 50-meter butterfly and one for the 50-meter backstroke. Anne Phillips said that he “seemed to have more fun encouraging his teammates and the other swimmers.”

“I was happy to have earned the privilege to compete at the state competition representing Lancaster County,” Figari said.

Tim Hubach of Ephrata brought home the gold in the 25-meter backstroke and a silver in 25-meter freestyle.

Marty Zeamer, Columbia, won a gold in the team medley relay and gold in the 25-meter backstroke. Phillips explained that in a medley relay, each of the four swimmers swim one of the strokes — either backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly or freestyle. Elizabethtown resident Tommy Levosky brought home gold in 25-meter freestyle and 25-meter backstroke, along with the gold in the team medley relay.

Phillips said that Shelly Pierson, Lancaster, and Jeanne Ulmer, Elizabethtown, have competed at the state event several times and always enjoy seeing friends from other counties. Each of these ladies scored silver in the team freestyle relay, and individual medals. Pierson brought home the silver in 25-meter breaststroke and bronze in 25-meter backstroke, while Ulmer earned a bronze in the 25-meter freestyle.

“Watching the athletes work harder than imaginable despite their challenges and then seeing that look of pure joy at competition when they win and when they don’t…best display of sportsmanship known to man,” said team coach Kerri Hample.

“My favorite part is being surrounded by individuals that give their all, despite the many challenges that face them,” added assistant coach Taylor Wilson. “They teach me at every practice and every meet the true meaning of happiness. When your give the athletes the right resources positive support and encouragement, they can conquer anything they put their minds to.”

In addition to competing in their events and chatting with other athletes, team members enjoyed the opening ceremonies at Penn State, shaking hands with PSU football players and other PSU team athletes.

“My favorite part is seeing the pure joy on their faces at opening ceremonies, finishing a race, and standing up in the podium,” said assistant coach Jesse Krueger. “Their genuine excitement and love for others brings tears of joy to my eyes.”

Phillips said that Sue Paterno attended the Friday night dance and was seen doing a conga line dance with several of the Lancaster County athletes.

“The spirit of good sportsmanship and competition is part of Special Olympics, but the real fun is sharing in the joy these athletes have, whether they win or lose,” Anne Phillips said. “The Special Olympic motto says it well: ‘Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt’,” Phillips said.

She explained that swim team practice begins in early March, and certified coaches and volunteers work with an average of 35 athletes teaching the basics of swimming, as well as advanced strokes, depending on the swimmer’s ability level. With assistance from a dedicated team of helpers, beginners, who are known as the “starfish,” usually get one-on-one teaching in the first hour of practice, while the second hour of practice includes the more advanced swimmers.

Special Olympics Lancaster County is open to any individual with an intellectual disability. Phillips stressed that there is never any cost to the athletes or their families. For further information about the organization, visit specialolympicslancastercounty.com.

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at RAASHENK@aol.com.

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