RALEIGH — Avery County sent two teams to the recent 2019 Special Olympics North Carolina Summer Games. The Avery Aquanauts swim team and the softball skills Diamond Demons each sought top honors in the statewide competition. Swimming events took place over a two-day period at the Triangle Aquatic Center, while the softball skills event was a single-day of competition at the Carolina Pines Park.

Everyone welcomed in the festivities at the Opening Ceremony held at PNC Arena, where approximately 1,800 athletes and 1,000 volunteers gathered for a celebration with lots of music, dancing, speakers and, of course, the lighting of the Olympic torch.

Softball skills competition is made up of individual scores for fastest base running, most fielded ground balls, hitting, and throwing for distance. The team’s six Diamond Demon athletes (wearing new jerseys) were very well prepared and enjoyed the luxury of each having their own equipment to take to each station, scoring very well in their individual divisions. Patty Topper, Marilyn Lane and Katie Holdcroft each earned a gold medal, while Richard Parker and Charlie Varner each earned silver medals. In an unusually large division, Mickey Daniels earned a fifth-place finish.

Avery Aquanauts Nicho Reinecke, Austin Benfield, Greg Gurley and John Hendricks III won the Gold Medal in the 4x25-meter freestyle relay, with each athlete swimming a personal best. Reinecke earned gold medals in both his freestyle and backstroke events; while Gurley won a silver and bronze medal. Benfield earned two fourth-place finishes while Hendricks won a gold in his freestyle event. Special thanks to Coach Lucy Corning and chaperones Cytina Reinecke and Mr. & Mrs. John Hendricks II.

SOAC wishes to offer a huge thank you to Natalie Buchanan for chaperone/chauffeur duties, and to Mike and Tina Minter for invaluable assistance with softball skills.

In addition, the group thanks the Williams YMCA both for use of the pool and of the O’Connell Field House for softball skills during some rainy Thursdays, as well as Avery County Parks and Recreation Department for use of the field, Richard Corning and Kirk Holdcroft for sharing their coaching expertise at the pool and on the field, and gratitude to all of the group’s benefactors, especially the High Country Charitable Foundation, for providing funding to cover travel and lodging expenses, as well as the cost for new equipment and uniforms.

A final word of appreciation from Avery County Special Olympics was offered to all of the group’s supporters and fans.

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