Jackson County athletes gearing up for Special Olympics Summer Games

The Special Olympics Indiana Summer Games is returning to its normal format.

The nonprofit organization’s largest gathering of athletes, unified partners and volunteers was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was offered as a one-day event in 2021.

This year, it’s back to a three-day event, running Friday through Sunday on the campuses of Indiana State University and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute.

Jackson County will be among the county delegations competing. The local program will have 15 athletes participating in track and field, four doing horseshoes and two competing in bocce.

To qualify to go, the track and field athletes had to participate in an area meet. For Jackson County, that was the Area 2 competition May 14 at Salem High School.

Horseshoes and bocce don’t have a qualifying event. In all, there are nine sports offered at Summer Games.

At the Area 2 meet, Jackson County athletes claimed a lot of medals and a few ribbons. At Summer Games, they hope to earn even more to add to their collection.

“I want to run the 100-meter and 200-meter race fast to win more medals and javelin, too,” Owen Law, 10, said.

He’s the youngest of the county’s competitors, and the oldest competitor is 65. Special Olympics is open to individuals ages 8 and up with an intellectual disability.

Track and field athletes can do up to three events (no more than two field events) at Summer Games.

Law is one of four Jackson County athletes doing three events. At the area meet, he earned gold medals in the 100 and 200 and a silver medal in the mini-javelin throw.

Nevaeh Ackeret is entered in three events, too. She won gold in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes at the area competition.

Brothers Zack and Dakota Campbell weren’t able to compete in the area meet, but the state approved for them to go to Summer Games. Zack will run the 100 and throw the shot put and mini-javelin, while Dakota’s events are the 50-meter dash, standing long jump and shot put.

Nevaeh’s sister, Haley Ackeret, is doing two running events. At area, Haley won gold in the 100, 200 and shot put. At Summer Games, though, she’s only doing the track events.

Other gold medalists for Jackson County were Cassie Brock in the 50-meter walk and shot put, Charla Richards in the 10-meter assisted walk and tennis ball throw, Christina Wright in the 15-meter assisted wheelchair slalom and 15-meter assisted wheelchair race, Derrick Martin in the 50-meter unassisted walk and softball throw, David Perrin in the 50-meter assisted walk, Christa Birge in the tennis ball throw, Lucinda Rutan in the softball throw, Alysha Sandlin in the mini-javelin throw, Josh Beals in the mini-javelin throw and Todd Smith in the mini-javelin throw.

Placing second and receiving silver medals were Becky Klosterman in the mini-javelin throw, Rutan in the 50-meter unassisted walk, Perrin in the softball throw and Elijah Noble in the standing long jump.

Bronze medalists for placing third were Rob Smith in the 400-meter walk, Sandlin in the 800-meter walk, Beals in the 50-meter dash, Birge in the 25-meter assisted walk and Brock in the mini-javelin throw.

Earning ribbons for fourth-place finishes were Klosterman in the 50-meter walk, Todd Smith in the 200-meter dash, Noble in the softball throw and Rob Smith in the mini-javelin throw.

Taking fifth were Noble in the 50-meter dash and Martin in the mini-javelin throw.

Adding it all up, that’s 22 gold medals, five silver medals, five bronze medals, four fourth-place ribbons and two fifth-place ribbons.