The Rockets competed in the State Swim Meet recently in Columbus and brought home 9 gold medals, 6 silver medals, one bronze medal, and one fourth-place ribbon and three fifth-place ribbons. (Submitted photo)

Tuscarawas County, Ohio - The Rockets are celebrating an incredible year after a strong showing at the State Swim Meet.

Tuscarawas County Special Olympics Coordinator Richelle Lefler says 10 Special Olympic athletes and three unified partners competed in a variety of events last weekend at The Ohio State University in Columbus.

“We did four different relays this time. We did the 4x25m free traditional, which is all Special Olympic athletes. We did the 4x25m Unified Freestyle. We did the 4x25m Unified Medley, which has one leg of each type of stroke: the breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and freestyle, and then we did a 4x50m Freestyle unified. For individual events, we have athletes who swam the 25m Freestyle, 50m Freestyle, 25m Backstroke, 50m Backstroke. We have one individual that does the Butterfly exceptionally well,” she says. 

Lefler says the team had an exceptional showing, coming away with 9 gold medals, six silver medals, one bronze medal, and one fourth-place and three fifth-place ribbons.   

Swimmers securing gold medals for the team were Diana DeMonte in the 25m Backstroke; Joey Fulton in the 25m Freestyle; Cady Harlan in the 50m Freestyle and 50m Backstroke; Chance Iannone in the 50m and 25m Freestyle events; Miranda Milburn in the 25m Freestyle; Elise Thompson in the 25m Butterfly; and the team of Cady Harlan, Sharlyn Miller, Keilan Patterson and Elise Thomson in the 4x25m Medley Unified Relay. 

Silver medalists included Abby Cool in the 25m Freestyle; Joey Fulton in the 50m Freestyle; Miranda Milburn in the 50m Freestyle; Ember Miller in the 25m Freestyle; the team of Joey Fulton, Chance Iannone, Kelly Wells and Keilan Patteson in the 4x50m Freestyle Unified Relay; and the team of Chelsea Lefler, Miranda Milburn, Sharlyn Miller and Kelly Wells in the 4x25m Freestyle Unified Relay. Lefler also earned the team’s only bronze medal in the 25m Freestyle. 

The team of Abby Cool, Diana DeMonte, Ember Miller and Larry Smitley finished fourth in the 4x25m Relay. Diana DeMonte, Larry Smitley Jr. and Elise Thompson all took home fifth-place ribbons in the 25m Freestyle. 

Lefler says the athletes were excited for the opportunity to compete and proud of their accomplishments.

“I think overall what I get from all the athletes is that one, they’re super excited. Two, they feel a great sense of accomplishment for having achieved this and getting to experience something that not everybody gets to, and three, they just have so much fun," she says.

Lefler says 2018 has been a great year for the county’s Special Olympic athletes.

“The Rockets in all sports are having a lot of success. We just came off of winning the State Championship in Flag Football in November, and before that was the State Championship in Softball in September,” she says.

Lefler says the team is currently gearing up for basketball season, and they're hoping to continue their winning streak at the State Championships in March.

“We’ve been practicing since the beginning of November. Starting next week, we start our game schedule, which is pretty packed, and we’ll just be trying to win a couple more State Championships, as we have two teams, and we also have a skills team. And then we have an amazing Pep Club coached by Kat Arthurs. We have 18 members in the Pep Club this year, so that’s exciting too,” she says.

To get involved with the Tuscarawas County Special Olympics, email or call the Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities at 330-308-7173. 


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