A handful of Special Olympics Southern California athletes celebrated the Fourth of July in style, raking in medals as the competitions heat up.
REDMOND, Wash. — All three Team SOSC golfers medaled in their respective divisions Wednesday at Willows Run Golf Course.
Both Kent Menendez and Kyle Aragon had a host of supporters make the trip over the past three days, and the two made their families proud.
Kyle, who has a cousin in Seattle, held on to win the gold in Level 5, Division 7 action after shooting 125. His highlight on the day was shooting even on the par-5 fifth hole.
This marked the first tournament Kyle has played since receiving a new set of clubs, which were donated by PGA professional Luke List earlier this year.
“This whole experience has really been amazing,” said his mother, Shawn Aragon. “This is the first time he moved up a level, so this is the first time he’s played 18 (holes) in competition. So, this was a big deal.”
Meanwhile, Kent made the leader on the Level 5, Division 4 standings earn every hole before finishing with the silver in a tightly contested grouping. Both he and Anthony Salvati (Florida) turned in identical scores of 10-over-par 81 in the final round, and Kent claimed the silver medal.
Kent, who entered the day a shot behind the lead, finished the round by converting par on nine of the 18 holes — including a stretch from holes 11-18 in which he tallied seven.
Kent’s older sister, Kiffen Rowland, made the trip from Portland, Ore. to watch him compete for SOSC for the very first time this week.
“The golf course is the great equalizer for him,” Kiffen said. “It’s really where he excels. It’s so awesome to see him thriving.”
In Level 4 nine-hole action, Tyson Strobel finished off a dominant performance and won Division 1 by 13 strokes. His 8-over-par round on the course’s back-nine holes featured four pars on holes 12, 15, 16 and 18.
His three-round totals were 47-43-44 to finish the tournament at 134.
Tyson, the latest addition to the Team SOSC delegation, overcame minor knee and elbow ailments to maintain his lead. In Round 1, he and the other golfers also battled through light rain that made the grass a tad slower than usual, he said.
“I just kept my composure,” Tyson said. “I didn’t let that bother me.”
The golfers will receive their medals in a formal ceremony on Thursday.
SEATTLE, Wash. — The four-woman group from Inland Empire found themselves in the thick of the medal hunt in doubles play.
The team of Michelle Pence and Amanda Maling (SOSC) won the gold after defeating April King and Candice Herget (Maryland), 8-5, on Court 1 at Dempsey Indoor Center.
Team SOSC opened up an early advantage, accounting for five of the match’s first six points, and maintained the momentum. Michelle now has two gold medals this week, including one in singles action on Tuesday.
“I feel great,” Michelle said.
For Amanda, it was her first medal of any kind at USA Games.
“It was amazing,” Amanda said.
On Court 3, Jennifer Ali and Tina Phipps (SOSC) put up a valiant effort in a see-saw match before dropping a 7-6 decision to Dorothy Blanchette and Elizabeth Procunier (Michigan) in the bronze medal match. The Team SOSC tandem earned the fourth-place ribbon.
“It’s intense, it gets my heart pumping,” Jennifer said. “You try your hardest to win and we enjoyed it.”
Jennifer and Tina opened with a 5-1 lead before finding themselves down 6-4. Instead of folding in the face of a deficit, the duo rallied with two points on the very next frame to tie and set up the winner-take-all finish.
“You cheer them on and want the best for them,” said their coach, Linda Bunnell. “They know they can’t always win and they do the best they can do. It means a lot (to watch).”
Notes and More Results
-Team SOSC’s Unified basketball team from Lompoc High School has been redivisioned. After starting pool play in Division 1, the team will play the remainder of its games under Division 2.
Therefore, stakes are high for Thursday’s 8 a.m. game against Arizona at Marv Harshman Court. The winner will advance to Friday’s gold medal contest and the loser would play again Thursday at 1 p.m. against Minnesota on Court A in the Intramurals Building.
-It wasn’t all about the competitions on the day — or, at least not of the traditional variety.
Tennis player Heidi Sand was awarded a certificate for completing 2.6 million steps in the 2018 USA Games Fitness Challenge.
-Here’s how the rest of Team SOSC fared:
Athletics (Track and Field)
- Women’s 200-meter run:
- Krystal Johnson – Gold medal, 37.62 seconds in Division 6
- Jennifer Palacios – Silver medal, 51.17 seconds in Division 2
- Ashlee Bahr – 6th place, 46.99 seconds in Division 5
- Long jump:
- Anthony Rodela – Silver medal, 1.02 meters in Division 2
- Robert Waters – DQ
- Men’s 400-meter run:
- Brett Laza – Silver medal, 58.71 seconds in Division 7
- James Morrell – Silver medal, 1:10.63 in Division 5
- Women’s 4×100 relay (prelim):
- Ashlee Bahr, Krystal Johnson, Sarah Kovacs and Jennifer Palacios – Second-best time, 1:15.00
- Shot put (re-do from Tuesday):
- Robert Waters – Bronze medal, 4.75 meters in Division 2
- Anthony Rodela – 4th place, 5.82 meters in Division 5
- Men’s 100-meter freestyle:
- Steven Espinoza – Gold medal, 1:12.81 in Division 9
- Men’s high-performance 100-meter freestyle:
- Jonathan Pierce – Silver medal, 59.41 seconds in Division 1
- Kristen Rausch (Texas) def. Heidi Sand(SOSC), 2-0
- Jonathan Doring (Florida) def. Michael Roth (SOSC), 2-0
- Brittany Tagliareni and Ryan Smith (Florida) def. Heidi Sand and Michael Roth (SOSC), 2-0, in mixed doubles
- Southern California 5, Utah 2
- Washington Titans 3, Southern California 2
- Washington 24, Southern California 14