(Courtesy Augusta Stars)
Members of the Augusta Stars, a Special Olympics Georgia agency, competed Oct. 6 and 7 in the Special Olympics Georgia Fall Games at Freedom Park in Valdosta. Thirty-two athletes competed in bocce, cycling and golf.
Bocce dates back to the ancient games played during the Roman Empire. A game is played between two teams of four. Each game is for 30 minutes; at the end of time, the team with the most points wins the match. Games are played in traditional brackets, with teams winning their first match playing each other and those losing their first match playing each other so that first through fourth can be established.
The Augusta Stars fielded three traditional teams and two unified teams. Unified teams are comprised of no less than 50% athletes and unified partners. A unified partner is an athlete without an intellectual disability that is paired with a Special Olympian of similar age and level of skill.
The Traditional Team of Brandy Storey, Cindy Isbell, Erica Rothwell and Eric Barclay went undefeated to win the gold. Stacey Yarbrough, Mikaela Smith, Angela Campbell, and Wendy Barker earned the silver medal while the team of Michael Bonnett, Gary Smith, and Jacob Herndon brought home the bronze.
The Unified Teams of Jennifer Amrhein, Chris Supulski, and Theresa Nixon came in fourth while Raven Allen, Kim Way, and Kevin Enright brought home the bronze.
Cyclists compete on a round track that is approximately 1/5th of a mile with a slight uphill that challenges the athletes on one side of the track and a slight downhill to use to their advantage on the other. There are four races to choose from of which athletes can compete in up to two races. They are 500M, 1K, 5K and 10K. The Augusta Stars have athletes that compete on both ends (500m and 1K/5K and 10K) as well as intermediate (1K and 5K) based on their capabilities. The results of these races are as follows:
For the 500M/1K group: Naomi Hicks – silver and bronze; Aalyiah Petry – gold and bronze; Ashlyn Price – gold and bronze; and Tina Brennenman – bronze and fourth.
For the 1K/5K group: Corey Hudson – silver and gold; Izza Giboney – two silvers; Richard Grizzard – bronze and gold; and Jon Lambert – fourth and bronze.
For the 5K/10K group: Christian Norton/Worley- two silvers; Bobby Belaner – bronze and silver; Chris Powell – fourth and bronze; Eric Welch – silver and gold; Joshua Ekechukwu – bronze and bronze; and Antonio Rodriguez – two silvers.
The Augusta Stars competed in two events in golf. The teams of Michael Amrhein & Doyle Campbell won the Gold and Matt & Mark Scholten brought home the Bronze in the Unified 18-hole competition. In Unified Golf, one partner tees off and the other follows with the next stroke of the ball. They alternate who tees off so that both individuals tee off nine times over the 18 holes. Michael Holland won the gold in traditional 9-hole competition.
During the opening ceremonies, Special Olympics Georgia (SOGA) recognized two groups of Augusta Stars. Adrian Weis was posthumously awarded the 2023 Special Olympics Georgia Male Athlete of the Year. His family had planned to attend, but health concerns for his sister made that impossible. Kevin Enright, the Local Coordinator received the award on their behalf and stated that he “was honored to receive it.”
Enright said that Adrian was always happy and outgoing, enjoyed dancing and participating in Special Olympics. Adrian was an avid bowler and bocce ball player. Just prior to his passing, Adrian competed in the Winter Games bringing home the gold for bowling. He told everyone he knew all about the games and his medal. The second recognition went the Keating family as the 2023 Special Olympics Georgia Outstanding Family of the Year.
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