It was a weekend full of competition for the Tuscarawas County Rockets. Thirty-four athletes travelled to Bowling Green State University to compete in the Special Olympics Ohio Winter Games. For the first time since the inception of Winter Games, the Rockets competed in competitive cheerleading, swimming, and team basketball.
In competitive cheerleading, the Rockets performed cheers and a dance routine. For their efforts, they were awarded a gold medal. This is the second gold medal in two years for the Rockets Cheer Squad, making them back-to-back state champions. Members of the squad include: Dolly Alsept, Kaylee Arthurs, Heather Baker, Emily Erwin, Lexi Lacheta, Chelsea Lefler, Ember Miller, Alexis Partridge, Rebekah Rothel, Jess Seevers, Tory Seevers, Stacey Shroyer, Cassie Tedrick, and Nicole Young. They are coached by Kat Arthurs, Julie Erwin, and Rhonda VanFossen.
In swimming, the Rockets swam in a total of 16 races. They recorded several personal records in their performances. The 4x50m freestyle relay beat the other teams by almost a pool length to win a gold medal; the relay team consisted of Jackson Gambs, Allison Halsey, Cady Harlan, and Jordan Miller. Members of the Rockets swim team and their finishes in their individual events include:
- Diana DeMonte – 50m freestyle and 50m backstroke (bronze)
- Gambs – 25m freestyle (gold), 50m freestyle (gold)
- Halsey – 25m freestyle (bronze), 50m freestyle (gold)
- Harlan – 100m freestyle (silver), 50m freestyle (gold)
- Miller – 25m freestyle and 50m freestyle (silver)
- Andrea Morgan – 25m backstroke (gold), 50m backstroke (silver)
- Larry Smitley – 25m freestyle (bronze)
- Emma Ward – 25m backstroke (bronze), 25m freestyle (fourth)
The swim team is coached by David DeMonte and Stacy Harlan.
In team basketball, the Rockets Silver team competed in Division 2. They had previously defeated tough Summitt and Lorain County teams in the NE Regional Tournament to punch their ticket to state. The Rockets were given a bye in the first round of tournament play and then faced Fayette County in the state finals. After the Rockets led for most of the game, the Fayette County Dragons took the lead early in the fourth quarter. The Rockets fought back by scoring 14 unanswered points to win the game by a score of 61-51. Matthew Medley led all scorers with 18 points. He also added 12 assists, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 1 steal. Deric Johnson added 15 points, pulled down 12 boards, and had 3 assists. Chris Wernert added 10 points and 8 rebounds. Zach Dryden added 9 points and 7 rebounds, while Alex Adkins added 5 points and 10 boards for the Rockets. Other team members include Chris Daniska (2 points), Craig Gordon, Steve Hazelip (2 points, 4 rebounds, 4 steals), Aidan McClain (2 rebounds), Austin McGinnis, Jason Murray, Jr., and Kershel Zehnder. The Rockets Silver team is coached by Frittz McGinnis and was assisted by Denise McGinnis and Russell Moye.
The Rockets will host their 6th Annual Friendship Games on March 11th starting at noon at Strasburg-Franklin Schools. Over 150 athletes from across Ohio will be joining forces to play basketball games and compete in a Hoop Shoot contest. There will also be 15 cheerleaders and over 20 coaches from various programs participating. There will be two division 5 games at 12:15 and 1:00. Division 4 will play at 2, Division 3 will play at 4, and Divisions 1/2 will play at 5:30. Admission is free, and there will be a concession stand and 50/50 drawing throughout the day.
The Rockets Awards will also be presented at 3 p.m. Recipients of this year’s awards are:
- The Spirit of Tuscarawas County Award – Indian Valley Local Schools
- The Spirit of Generosity Award – The Ruth Carlson-Starlight Foundation
- The Community Partnership Award – The Tuscarawas County YMCA
- The Spirit of Friendship Award – Strasburg Fire Department
- The Honorary Rocket Award – Charlie Jones
- The Help Us Shine Award – Chris Kail
- The Above and Beyond Award – Mike Spinell
- The Spirit of Inclusion Award – Gary Spinell