CLINTON — Some Clinton County Special Athletes will be part of Team Iowa in the first-ever Special Olympics USA National Summer Games to be held on the Iowa State University campus in Ames.

The National Games are expected to bring more than 3,000 Special Olympics athletes from across the United States, as well as more than 2,000 coaches and official delegates, 10,000 family members and friends, 8,000 volunteers and 30,000 spectators to Ames. Special Olympics Iowa is sending the largest contingent of athletes and coaches to compete at nationals with a total of 250 team members participating in 12 different sports including aquatics, track and field, basketball, bocce, bowling, golf, gymnastics, power lifting, tennis, soccer, softball and volleyball.

The games officially begin Sunday but 16 athletes from the Clinton area will leave town early Saturday morning in order to register, have their pictures taken, get settled into the college dorms and may have an opportunity to practice in the evening.

On Sunday, the competitors will attend the opening ceremony for the lighting of the torch with the Flame of Hope and will participate in a parade of athletes, then be treated to an indoor fireworks display. Throughout the week, when they’re not practicing or competing the athletes will be able to go to the Festival Village in the Hilton Coliseum for live entertainment, interactive games and activities, try out several food vendors and view exhibits displayed by event sponsors. Other non-sporting events feature educational opportunities including a symposium on disabilities, a Congressional field hearing held by Sen. Tom Harkin, a National Youth Summit, a Young Athlete Program demonstration and Healthy Athletes clinics.

During the games, the nine members of the Clinton soccer team will compete in tournament play and seven other individuals will participate in swimming, track and field and bocce ball competitions. Swimmer Mark Trenkamp, of Preston, will compete in the 100-meter freestyle, the 200-meter freestyle and the 100-meter backstroke. Another swimmer, Tom Lewis, will participate in the 50-meter freestyle, the 50-meter backstroke and will be one member of a four-person 100-meter relay. Shirley Messerli, Tracy Stauffer and Kevin Stauffer will test their strength in the powerlifting competition and track and field competitor Julie Ronnfeldt will participate in the softball throw and the 100-meter walk. Bonnie Wells, who is set to compete in the bocce tournament, may or may not compete due to a recently broken toe. Clinton County team coaches are waiting for word from doctors who may yet clear Wells to compete.

Special Olympics Head Coach Doris Harris said the athletes are excited to start the competition. She said it’s an honor to get to participate in the national competition and added that the athletes are ready to give it their all.

“They work hard and they play hard,” Harris said, “We’ve got some good athletes.”

Assistant Coach John Christiansen said they train hard all year long. He said the athletes know the meaning of the word quit but never give up.

“They just keep going,” Christiansen said, “If they’re not here for practice, they must really be sick.” He added that the competition at nationals will be neck and neck.

“They’ve got some tough teams out there,” Christiansen said, “But, we’ll make it tough on them too.”

Harris said she’s impressed with the athletes’ dedication.

“We’re proud of them no matter what they come home with,” Harris said.

The athletes will attend the closing ceremony next Friday night and return to Clinton on Saturday.

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