18 Jackson County athletes compete in Special Olympics Indiana Summer Games

TERRE HAUTE — A gold, silver or bronze medal was placed around the neck of top-three finishers in various events in nine sports at the Special Olympics Indiana Summer Games.

After that, it was highly likely they would be wearing it the rest of the day and beyond.

That was the case this past weekend as programs from around the state converged on Terre Haute for the nonprofit organization’s largest annual competition.

Jackson County’s Dennis England and Donald Bennethum both earned gold in their division of horseshoes at Collett Park on Saturday.

England played the same competitor twice and had two close matches.

“Other times, I’ve taken second or third. Never first,” he said after earning a gold medal.

When asked if he’s going to wear his medal every day now, he smiled and said, “Pretty much.”

“I’ve really enjoyed myself,” England said.

Bennethum also was proud of how he performed in horseshoes and said he’s going to hang his gold medal in his room at home.

At Indiana State University’s Gibson Track and Field Complex, Jackson County had 13 athletes competing.

David Perrin was a double medal winner, taking first in his division in the 50-meter assisted walk for a gold medal and second in the softball throw for a silver medal. For the walk, he was joined by Ashley Burkhart.

“He’s very proud. He will not take them off,” she said of Perrin wearing his medals from Summer Games along with the two he earned at the Area 2 meet May 14 at Salem High School.

Track and field athletes had to compete in an area meet to qualify to go to the Summer Games. Jackson County also had athletes competing in horseshoes and bocce, but neither of those have a qualifying event. They just submit qualifying scores from a practice and compete at Summer Games.

In track and field, which took place Friday through Sunday, Jackson County had a double gold medal winner in Derrick Martin. He placed first in the 50-meter walk and softball throw.

Also winning a pair of gold medals was Christina Wright, competing in the assisted wheelchair race and wheelchair slalom.

Ivy Trimble, meanwhile, won gold in the 50-meter assisted walk and silver in the softball throw, Christa Birge took gold in the tennis ball throw and silver in the 25-meter assisted walk, Lucinda Rutan earned gold in the 50-meter unassisted walk and bronze in the softball throw, Charla Richards received a bronze medal in the tennis ball throw and Nevaeh Ackeret won gold in the 400-meter dash.

Other silver medal winners were Becky Klosterman in the 50-meter walk, Rob Smith in the mini-javelin throw and 400-meter walk, Alysha Sandlin in the 800-meter walk, Owen Law in the mini-javelin throw, Ackeret in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and her sister, Haley Ackeret, in the 100-meter dash.

Receiving bronze medals for third-place finishes were Law in the 100-meter dash and Haley Ackeret in the 200-meter dash.

Fourth through eighth places received ribbons for their efforts. For Jackson County, Sandlin was fourth in the mini-javelin throw, Klosterman was sixth in the mini-javelin throw and Law was eighth in the 200-meter dash.

In horseshoes, Jackson County’s other competitor was Thomas Emly. He placed second in his division and earned a silver medal.

In bocce, Dale Hickman and Tim Ashburn won by forfeit in their opening match early Friday afternoon since their competitors didn’t show up. Then early Saturday morning, they played in the gold medal match against Putnam County. Hickman and Ashburn scored the first three points but gave up the next 12, so they received silver medals.

In all, Jackson County received 11 gold medals, 14 silver medals, four bronze medals, one fourth-place ribbon, one sixth-place ribbon and one eighth-place ribbon.

This was Special Olympics Indiana’s 52nd Summer Games, bringing together nearly 3,000 athletes and Unified partners representing 50 delegations to compete in a variety of Olympic-type sports, which also included bowling, cycling, powerlifting, swimming, volleyball and for the first time, soccer.

The three-day event was made possible by the contributions of more than 1,500 volunteers, sponsors and donors. Thousands of coaches, chaperones and spectators also took part in the Summer Games, making this event a celebration of the spirit of Special Olympics.

The organization is for individuals with intellectual disabilities ages 8 and up. Jackson County’s 18 athletes at Summer Games ranged in age from 10 to 65.