Special Olympians compete at North Hills Lanes in Marietta

MARIETTA -While the international winter Olympic games were continuing in Sochi, Russia, more than 120 Special Olympians were competing at North Hills Lanes in Marietta on Sunday afternoon.

“It’s our annual Area 8 bowling tournament, and we’ve brought in teams from at least four of the 10 counties in our region,” said Dennis Robertson, who, along with wife Ruth Robertson, helped coordinate Sunday’s event.

Teams from Washington, Morgan, Perry and Athens counties participated in the Special Olympics tournament.

“This is obviously a fun event for the participants, but it’s also some serious competition,” Dennis Robertson said. “Some of these people are bowling in the 160 to 170 point range.”

He said top winners from the bowling tournament receive gold, silver and bronze medals and have a chance to attend the Ohio Special Olympics championship in Columbus this summer.

Special Olympics coach Rachelle Flesher said there were 78 male and female bowlers on the Washington County team this year. Some of those folks and others also take part in the Special Olympics track and field events in April.

“This helps keeps them active and involved in their community, as well as provides enjoyment for the participants and their families,” Flesher said. “But competing also teaches sportsmanship and working as a team.”

Dennis Robertson said the competition is open to individuals with disabilities throughout the county, and the ages of local Special Olympians range from 8 to 70 years old.

In addition to members of the four bowling teams who participated in Sunday’s event, hundreds of family members also packed into the bowling facility to show their support.

Carrie Roush, of Beverly, was rooting for her daughter, 24-year-old Rebecca.

“She started bowling about 10 years ago when we lived in Morgan County, but then she transferred to Warren High School and began bowling here about seven years ago,” Roush said. “And this is a great event. It’s not about winning or losing. She’s out with her peers and having fun. And we root for everybody.”

She noted Rebecca has poor muscle control and has to use a special ramp to launch her bowling ball into the lane.

“But it’s really a good experience for her,” Roush said. “She doesn’t always like to be out in a crowd, but she loves this.”

Ruth Robertson said the tournament is a memorable time for all of the bowlers.

“They get so excited about being able to participate and can’t wait for the competition to begin,” she said. “And you can see them high-fiving each other when they score.”

Dennis also thanked Quidel Corporation’s Athens office for being a major sponsor of this year’s Special Olympics tournament.

“And the North Hills Lanes have always been very accommodating for us every year,” he said.