COLUMBUS - A Seneca County Opportunity Center bocce team is bringing home gold from the state Special Olympics games again.
Tom Sewell and Steve Hiser, bocce teammates, were victorious after a back-and-forth game, said Shirley Michalak, their coach. It was nerve-wracking because the teams' scores were close, she said.
"It gets exciting to watch them. ... I love watching them," she said.
PHOTO BY JILL GOSCHE
Betty Woodruff, representing Seneca County Opportunity Center, competes in bocce at Special Olympics Saturday morning.
Two other bocce teams, including Chris Wagner and Betty Woodruff, and Cheryl Ruble and Patrick Moore - each finished fourth, she said.
Prior to the game, Sewell said his goal for the gold-medal match was "just to win." Sewell, who previously competed in tennis, said he learned how to play bocce from his coach.
"It's pretty fun," he said.
Hiser and Sewell, who said they like being partners, practice together Tuesdays and Thursdays.
"Nice, easy sport to play. ... I played bocce ball last year and the year before," Hiser said.
Michalak started a bocce team at Seneca County Opportunity Center five years ago. She compared it to bowling but said competitors don't knock down pins.
"I haven't played it yet. I just more or less coach them on what to do. ... I do (enjoy coaching)," she said.
Michalak said the courts are 60 feet long, and competitors want to get bocce balls as close to the pallino ball as possible. The sport, she said, started in Europe and is one anyone can play.
"It worked its way here," she said.
Hiser said players enjoy having Michalak as a coach. This is her last year as a paid coach, but she said she still will be around to volunteer.
"I don't think I could step completely out of it," she said.
Special Olympics athletes from around Ohio are competing in contests on the campus of Ohio State University this weekend. Six athletes from Tiffin Developmental Center are competing in bowling. Seneca County Opportunity Center is represented by 19 athletes, including five in track, six in bocce and eight in volleyball.
Ryan Herr, a Seneca County Opportunity Center athlete, received a ribbon for placing fifth in the softball throw competition. He threw the ball 35 meters and 49 centimeters.
"I did (the contest) eight years ago," he said.
Herr said he enjoys competing in the softball throw contest. He said he wanted to get gold but was in a tough heat.
"(At) least I placed," he said.