FEDERAL WAY, Wash. — As the competitions enter its final days, the intensity is palpable and Special Olympics Southern California seems to just get stronger.
Five Team SOSC swimmers competed in separate divisions of the 50-meter freestyle, and one shattered a personal-best time Thursday at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center.
Nicolette Jones and Ethan Tran both won the gold medal in their respective divisions while Dawn Albritton came away with a silver.
Nicolette lived up to her Lane Lightning persona from the United Airlines superhero ad campaign as her time of 1:03.44 was a whopping 13.07 seconds faster than she’s ever posted. Ethan finished his race in 37.42 seconds and Dawn posted a time of 40.93.
Kiana Yep placed fourth (1:14.17) and Nicholas Laguna took sixth (34.76). Nicholas’ race in Division 9 was a tight finish, as a little more than two seconds was the difference from attaining the bronze.
Christina Principe showed off her tremendous stamina in the 400-meters. While she finished fourth, her time of 7:10.15 was six seconds better than her previous personal best.
Christina saved enough energy to take silver in the 100-meter butterfly later in the day. She finished the race in 1:55.12.
Less than 10 minutes away at Celebration Park, Team SOSC put up a pair of memorable performances — including a classic gold-medal game that delivered the beauty of sport, both the highs and lows.
First, Team SOSC stifled a powerful New Jersey lineup to win 19-4 and advance to the championship. It was the first time in five games New Jersey did not score in double digits.
Then came a rematch against Ohio, which it had already lost to on Tuesday. The result did not change a second time around in a 19-13 thriller, but what did shine through in Team SOSC’s silver-medal performance was the desire to battle and the respect of its opponent.
Trailing 15-7 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Team SOSC rallied and posted an 5-run inning in its next round of at-bats to give itself a chance.
Throughout the inning, Bryan Gordon and Matthew Lawrence kept reminding their teammates about the journey to put themselves in position to play for the gold.
Defensively, left-center fielder Matthew Morse then flashed his glove in the sixth. He cut off a sinking line drive to start the inning and hold Ohio to a single, and two batters later made a sliding catch in shallow center.
“Matt Morse was unbelievable,” Coach Chuck Martucci said. “He was the one covering most ground, making these spectacular catches as he tracked the ball. He kept us in the game.”
But Ohio’s two-out rally led to four more runs and Team SOSC just ran out of time and at-bats. Afterward, the two teams shared a number of warm hugs in the handshake line as the athletes on both sides realized the grind they had just endured.
“We played the best teams in the U.S. all week long,” SOSC first baseman Dustin Plunkett told his teammates in a huddle. “Be proud of second place. Let’s keep our heads up.”
Coach Martucci reflected on a team that has been together since its inception in 1990 and the growth he’s witnessed.
“I think that’s the special part of this story,” he said. “We’re very proud of them.”
Shifting from one memorable contest to another, the Team SOSC Unified from Southwest High School bounced back from a loss earlier in the day and battled injuries to win the bronze.
After falling to Northern California, 7-1, Team SOSC remained focused to post a 2-1, double-overtime win over Washington.
With 30 seconds to play in the second overtime, Unified partner Samuel Zamora Jr. scored the game-winner.
In dramatic style, Team @SOSoCal (our SOH Raiders) brings home the bronze. They had four injuries and won in overtime. Perseverance and heart got them the medal. #suhsd, #sandiego, and #socal are proud of you. Thank you for representing us well at the @2018USAGames . pic.twitter.com/ZgsIzjGVvU
— Valerie Ruiz (@mrsvruiz) July 5, 2018
Team SOSC won three of its five matches, including two over Minnesota, to win the bronze.
After narrowly winning the first meeting 5-4 to start the day, the women’s from Inland Empire finished off the day strong with a 12-4 win with the medal on the line.
The team also posted a 6-4 win over Alabama and losses to Michigan (9-5) and that same Alabama team (10-7).
Team SOSC defeated Kansas for the second time in three days, winning the bronze after posting a 14-10 win at Marv Harshman Court.
More Team SOSC Results:
Athletics (Track and Field):
- 400-meter run, Division 6:
- Sarah Kovacs wins silver with a time of 1:15.48
- Women’s shot put:
- Jennifer Palacios: Silver with distance of 5.08 meters, .01 shy of the gold in Division 4
- Ashlee Bahr: Seventh place, 4.53 meters in Division 4
- Krystal Johnson: Silver with a throw of 6.66 meters in Division 7
- Women’s 4×100 relay race:
- Ashlee Bahr, Krystal Johnson, Sarah Kovacs & Jennifer Palacios finished fourth with a time of 1:18.91
- Nathan Knepper def. Michael Roth (SOSC), 2-0
- Matthew Mantor & Kristen Rausch def. Michael Roth & Heidi Sand, 2-0
- Minnesota 20, Southern California 18
- 4×50 relay, DQ