Thrilling competitions closed out the 2019 Special Olympics Southern California Fall Games on Sunday.
More than 800 athletes brought their ‘A’ game in hopes of winning medals and ribbons in golf, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball. Golf was hosted at David L. Baker Golf Course while all other sports took place at nearby Fountain Valley Recreation Center and Sports Park.
When they weren’t playing their respective sports, the athletes enjoyed a host of activities including an on-site festival with games and prizes, as well as five Healthy Athletes stations that provided free health screenings conducted by volunteer clinicians in audiology, dentistry, fitness, health promotion and podiatry.
“A great two-day experience,” said Bill Shumard, President and CEO of Special Olympics Southern California. “In watching the athletes, I’m seeing a lot of dignity, a lot of joy, a lot of courage.”
Photos by volunteer photographer Jason Refuerzo
After completing nine holes the previous day, 20 individual golfers (Level 4) and 20 duos made up of SOSC athletes and Unified partners (Level 2) wrapped up competitions in 10 separate divisions of various skill levels.
Level 4 gold medalists included Sangwon Ahn (Orange County), Madison Meares (Inland Empire), Matthew Glumac (San Diego County), Brooks Clarkson (Orange County) and Jayson Jesperson (San Diego County).
Glumac and Ahn had particularly close competitors from their own regions on the weekend, winning by three and four strokes, respectively. Glumac’s two-round total score of 67 edged out fellow San Diego County golfer Kent Menendez (70), while Ahn’s 99 held up against Marc Weakland (103).
Level 2, which was an alternate shot competition with Unified partners teaming up alongside SOSC athletes, rounded out the other five divisions. Gold medalists were Kourtney Rogers/Thomas Purpus (Antelope Valley), Michael Thai/Samuel Montemer (Orange County), Lauro Ramirez/Michael Geherty (Kern County), Jacob Marsalek/Bill Martell (San Luis Obispo County) and Tim Nollar/Liam Rowe (Inland Empire-Redlands-Yucaipa).
Division 5 had the closest battle of all on the links, as Nollar/Rowe finished a stroke ahead of silver medalists Debi Anderson/James Prentice (Orange County). The tightest division belonged to Division 3, which had the four pairings separated by just 10 strokes, and the difference between a silver and fourth-place ribbon was just three strokes.
Soccer (Complete results)
Nineteen teams battled on the soccer field in five color-coded divisions.
LAFC B (Black division), Glendale Thunder (Blue), Inland Empire Green Mojaves (Gray), Ventura Sharks (Red) and Cerritos Heat (Turquoise) won gold medals in their respective divisions.
“What I like about it is it’s a really competitive sport,” said Levi Varner, a player for the Green Mojaves.
Softball (Complete results)
Softball divisions were named after Major League Baseball’s six divisions, as the NL Central was comprised of three teams and the remaining five divisions had four teams apiece.
The teams that won gold on the diamond were Ventura Simi Stars 2 (NL Central), San Diego County’s El Cajon Storm (AL Central), Antelope Valley Stealth (AL East), Orange County’s Laguna Hills Hawks 1 (AL West), San Diego County Aztecs (NL East) and Ventura County’s Conejo Crushers (NL West).
“What I like about Special Olympics is watching all these other friends of mine grow as people and athletes,” said Max Grasso, who won gold with the Laguna Hills Hawks. “They’re absolutely incredible. We’ve become so close with each other, we’re basically a family.”
On Saturday, 53 singles players were split into 15 divisions. Gold medals went to Monica Cook (San Luis Obispo County), Krystal Johnson (Western San Bernardino), Brett Laza (Western San Bernardino), Ryan Rodriguez (Orange County), John McGrath (Santa Barbara), Eddy Rojas (San Diego County), Jordan Love (San Diego County), Danielle Garcia (Antelope Valley), Lilia Ford (Tri-Valley), Richard West (Antelope Valley), Brandon Prieto (San Diego County), Kaitlin Wei Tsue (Orange County), Joshua Manso (Orange County), Paul Hoffman (Orange County) and Andrew Kramer (Tri-Valley).
The following day was the start of doubles action, which featured 18 tandems competing in five divisions. Laza/Johnson (Western San Bernardino) and Garcia/West (Antelope Valley) each added a second gold medal to their tally, and other first-place finishers included Rodriguez/Carly Dodds (Orange County), Tsue/Andre Restrepo (Orange County) and David Almberg/David Deramus (Kern County).
Volleyball (Complete results)
Nine teams were evenly split into three divisions: Bump, Set and Spike. Based on Day 1 preliminary results, the Set and Spike divisions were re-aligned going into Sunday.
Orange County’s Garden Grove Rebels prevailed for the gold medal in the Bump division, while the Long Beach Lightning finished first in the revamped Set division and Orange County’s Stars & Stripes claimed the Spike division.
This post will be updated as more information becomes available.