2014 USA Games Team Missouri newsletter — Wednesday edition!

Wednesday: Singles competition begins to wrap up

More and more of our athletes are receiving medals in their respective sports, which is great to see, but more importantly they’re having a blast competing against the best of the best and making plenty of new friends.

I’m sure other states are getting rather tired of having to hear our MO Magic chant at every venue, but I guess that’s just too bad, huh?

Athletics -
Maria Arnett, Paige Hall, Jason Coffman and Danny Topete all ran their first preliminary in the 4x100m relay and finished second in their heat. Paige, Maria and Jane Highland all did prelims in the running long jump. Jason, Allen Tobin and Maria all did prelims in the 200m run. All of those athletes who competed in prelims today will have their finals tomorrow either during the day or during the Sports Showcase at night.


  • Eric Wright: Gold in the 100m walk; 4th place in softball throw
  • Shelley Antle: Silver medal in softball throw; bronze in 100m walk
  • Allen Tobin: Bronze in shot put
  • Jason Coffman: 6th place in shot put

Aquatics – 
Another great day for the Team Missouri swimmers with everyone who competed taking home at least a fourth place ribbon. Kirstin Carlson and Libby Waddell were in the same heat of the 100 backstroke and it was a really tight race where Libby just barely squeaked by Kirstin. Cody Anderson swam a personal best in the 100 backstroke, which earned him a silver medal. Nathan Baldwin’s swim in the 100 free was also a personal best and a gold medal. According to Coach Amy Wurst, the highlight of the day was seeing Jennifer take the awards stand thinking she was getting the silver medal, but being awarded a gold because of another athlete’s DQ. She was completely surprised and overcome with emotion. Thursday’s swims will include the last of the finals including the 4×50 freestyle relay. Two of the finals will be in the evening as part of the aquatics Sports Showcase at Princeton University.


  • Jennifer Neihouse: Gold medal in the 25 fly
  • Cody Anderson: Silver in the 100 backstroke
  • Libby Waddell: Bronze in the 100 backstroke
  • Kirstin Carlson: 4th in the 100 backstroke
  • Nathan Baldwin: Gold in the 100 free

Basketball (men’s) -
Wednesday was much more kind to the men’s basketball team than was Tuesday. The guys squared off against a very good, but evenly-matched Indiana squad and lost by two points in overtime. Coach Stan Smith said the guys had a shot at the buzzer go in that would have given them the win, but it was just a split second too late and it didn’t count. The team starts the medal round tomorrow with a game against New York at 9:15 p.m. at The College of New Jersey.

Basketball (women’s) -
Coach Keith Patterson said today was the first day that the team actually played like a team. The opponent today was a little lower in ability than our girls, but Keith said Team Missouri took the floor with a plan and executed it with perfection, which was really nice to see. The medal round begins tomorrow with a re-match against Texas – a team the girls played the other day and lost by only two points. The game is at 9:15 a.m. at the Hun School.

Bocce – 
Unified doubles and Unified teams finished up their portion of the competition schedule on another scorching day at The College of New Jersey. You can find the results below. Thursday’s schedule includes singles competition for six of Team Missouri’s athletes. UP and assistant coach Mike Lowry said that one referee for a match complimented one of the bocce teams on how well they worked together and really tried to make strategy a part of their game. The referee said that it was the first time he had seen that from a team at any point during the week.


Unified doubles — 

  • Mike Lowry and Lonnie Thornton: Bronze
  • Linda Tyler and Morgan Coombe: Gold
  • Jeanie Byland and Melissa Buss: Silver
  • Courtney Patton and Rebecca Tincknell: Silver
  • William Reese and Matthew Cepeda: Silver
  • Scott Copeland and Pierce Rash: 4th place

Unified teams –

  • William Reese, Scott Copeland, Matthew Cepeda and Pierce Rash: 4th place
  • Linda Tyler, Courtney Patton, Morgan Coombe and Rebecca Tincknell: Gold
  • Mike Lowry, Jeanie Byland, Lonnie Thornton and Melissa Buss: Silver

Bowling – 

The bowling team had another great day of Unified doubles and regulation doubles competition. It was tough for the coaches to tell the divisions based on who they were bowling with on the adjoining lanes, but they somehow found their way around the lanes to watch everyone. You can find the full results for the day below, but for the doubles team of Tiffany Wright and Lindsey Hawkins, Coach Bea Webb and Sports Manager Mandi Steward Ballinger said they didn’t think the girls would medal based on their score and how low it was compared to their averages. When they eventually lined up for awards later in the day and Tiffany and Lindsey found out that they did in fact receive the bronze medal, they were just over the moon about it. It was a great surprise not only for the athletes, but for the coaches as well.


Doubles — 

  • Tiffany Wright and Lindsey Hawkins: Bronze medal
  • Michael Lunceford and Ryan Fant: Gold medal

Unified doubles –

  • Tanya Johnson and Amanda Geno: 4th place
  • Chris Miller and CJ O’Neal: Silver medal (this is a correction from a mobile alert that said they received the gold medal)

Flag Football – 
Despite losing again and still having yet to win a game, the flag football team is looking on the bright side of things: Coach Steve Wilmesherr said that the team has yet to lose a coin toss in the team’s four games. Steve said they might have to figure out a way to lose their coin toss before tomorrow’s game to see if that helps the team in actual competition. After losing today to Colorado, the team plays tomorrow at 9 a.m. and if they win then they will play for the bronze medal later on Thursday.

Golf -
All of the golfers finished up their competition schedule today and while there were some highs

and lows for everyone involved, everyone again came off the course with smiles on their faces.

While the golf competition is finished, the results are not completely finalized, so be sure to find read the Thursday night newsletter for the final standings for Team Missouri golfers. The information will also be sent out via an alert on the mobile app as soon as they are awarded Thursday mid-morning.

Powerlifting - 
The powerlifting team was finished yesterday and just rotated around to the different venues cheering on their fellow Team Missouri members.

Tennis -
The officials at the tennis venue continue to brag on UP Ashley Wurst and Brittany Selken for how well they’ve played together over the last few matches. They played well enough to take home the gold by beating Maryland 4-0, 4-2. The guys’ team of UP Jeremie Ballinger and Bobby Williams also continued to impress by also taking down Maryland 4-0, 4-2.

Later in the afternoon, Bobby was filmed by an SOI crew to help train coaches on the best way to instruct their athletes. He was really tired and kind of dragging by the end of the day, but he powered through without complaining and the film crew acknowledged how well he did during the taping of the video; they said they were really impressed with him.

On tap for Thursday is singles competition with both Brittany and Bobby playing for the bronze medal at 8:45 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. respectively.


  • Unified team of Ashley Wurst and Brittany Selken: Gold medal
  • Unified team of Jeremie Ballinger and Bobby Williams: Gold medal

Volleyball -
Sports Manager Diane Brimer said she felt really good about the team going 2-1 in competition today. After losing its first match against New Jersey (who was added to their bracket today), the team battled back to take down Colorado and Pennsylvania, both in only two games. Diane said she thinks the team was kind of caught off guard by a new team coming into the bracket and were a little intimidated by them.

Diane mentioned one of the highlights for her being Shaina Galloway’s serves and how she caught on fire in the second two games and at one point getting seven serves for points in a row. The other athlete who stood out was Harry Beleme who had kind of been struggling with his serves taking full advantage of the situation he was in during the third game and winning the game with a great last serve, which should hopefully do wonders for his confidence.

In addition to the huge crowd at the team’s final match against Pennsylvania, the new Special Olympics Inc. CEO Janet Froetscher came to see what this MO Magic business was all about. She attended the game wearing a pair of the team’s Opening Ceremony Loudmouth argyle shorts that have been the talk of the Games. It was a real pleasure to meet Janet and get the chance to teach her the MO Magic chant. A huge thanks to Janet for supporting our athletes by being in attendance and staying around to take photos following the game.

The team will play New Jersey again Thursday at 8 a.m. at Rider University. If the team loses it will play again at 11 a.m. for the bronze medal, but if it wins then Team Missouri will play for the gold on Friday.

Blog posts – 
“This bowling alley had 85 lanes. It was huge. Definitely helps speed things up. I was so impressed with our athletes. They were cheering on the other athletes and they were bowling well I thought.”
See more of Rachel Antal’s (PR Assistant while at the 2014 USA Games) blog here.  

“The day began very well with both Unified Tennis teams receiving gold.  It was weird that the both teams played Maryland teams and ended up with identical scores.  Both teams won the first match 4 -0 and the second 4 – 2.”
See more of Linda Wiederholt’s (sports manager for powerlifting and tennis) blog here.  

See Jeremie Ballinger’s (Unified Partner in tennis) blog here.

See Mandi Steward Ballinger’s (sports manager for bowling) blog here.

Mobile App -
Don’t forget to download the Team Missouri mobile app on your Apple or Android devices. This will be the most immersive MO Magic experience and the best way to follow the team all week while our athletes are busy making you all proud back home. Whether you’re joining us in New Jersey or watching from afar, the app really does have something for everybody (schedules, photo galleries, alerts on when athletes receive awards, videos and more!). If you don’t have a mobile device capable of utilizing the app, you can still access the app via the web at http://m.core-apps.com/somo_2014 or just stay tuned at www.somo.org/momagic.

Videos -
Get a first-hand account of what it’s like for the athletes throughout the day as women’s basketball player Dakota Perkins talks to fellow basketball athlete from the men’s team in Patrick Andrews.

Also check out the video of her and the other women’s basketball team members at the Unified Sports basketball showcase.

Photo Galleries -
Photos from the sports and fun activities are available both on our Flickr account and on our Facebook page. They will be updated throughout the week so be sure to check in on a daily basis!

2014 USA Games Team Missouri newsletter — Tuesday edition!

Awards accompany the 2nd day of competition!

Today every one of our teams competed and so many of our athletes received awards. It was supposedly one of the hottest days of the year (according to locals), but everyone competed hard and look forward to what the rest of the week has in store.

Athletics –
Everybody on the athletics team competed today with two of the athletes having finals: Eric Wright won gold in the 50 meter run and Danny won silver in the 400 meter run. Eric was so excited and it was great that his family was there to see it. Officially he was the first medal of the 2014 USA Games for Team Missouri. He didn’t even know it was his final. We just told him to run as if you’re going for the gold and he did. He was so excited and kept asking, “I did good, didn’t I?”

Paige Hall, Maria Arnett and Jane Highland all competed in their preliminary 100 meter run. Maria ran a fantastic race. Allen Tobin and Jason Coffman had their preliminaries in shotput. Shelley Antle had her preliminary in the standing long jump and is within inches of the person who finished first in preliminaries.

Wednesday’s schedule has a lot of Team Missouri athletes competing in finals, so stay tuned as the results come in!

Aquatics –
It was a good day today for the aquatics team as the athletes had their first round of finals and these were the results:

Nathan Baldwin: 4th place in the 25 yard backstroke
Logan Hulett: Bronze in the 200 yard freestyle
Cody Anderson: Silver in the 200 yard freestyle and bronze in the 100 yard medley
Libby Waddell: Bronze in the 100 yard individual medley and bronze in the 200 yard freestyle

Tomorrow holds more preliminaries and finals for our swimmers and they’re really looking forward to getting back in the pool.

Men’s basketball – 
The men’s basketball team played a really good New Jersey team that was much quicker and stronger than our athletes. New Jersey played a great 3-guard fast break offense that accounted for more than 60 percent of their points. It was just really hard for our guys to stop them. Coach Stan Smith said the team also didn’t handle the kind of press New Jersey threw at them. But he also said that he was proud of the team for not complaining about it and keeping their cool trying to find the best way to break through. The team is still not sure when it’s playing on Wednesday, but will find out as early as possible. Stay tuned to the mobile app for details as they become available.

Women’s basketball –
The women’s basketball team lost to Ohio today 24-12. They women on the Ohio team were just taller and bigger than our Team Missouri athletes and it was too much to handle. Ohio jumped on us pretty quickly with their tall girls in the game, but eventually our girls battled hard to close the gap. The women’s team is also unsure of when it’s playing Wednesday and will find out early in the morning, so check the app early and often.

Bocce –
Today was hot and frustrating one for the bocce team after a couple of technical difficulties and scheduling quirks left the team sitting for most of the day without the chance to compete. They were able to get over to see the powerlifting competition and cheer on Team Missouri’s two athletes competing there, but most of the morning was a wash.

When they all returned in the early evening, Unified Partner Jeanie Byland and Melissa Buss finished 1-1 beating Louisiana 10-6 and dropping their second match. Matthew Cepeda and UP William Reese squared off against fellow Team Missouri members UP Scott Copeland and Pierce Rash with Matthew and William coming out on top. Both teams played an eventual second match against other states, but both dropped those matches. UP Mike Lowry and Lonnie Thornton lost a really, really close first match 9-10 and Rebecca Tincknell and UP Courtney Patton are still waiting to play their second game, which will finish up on Wednesday morning. Linda Tyler and Morgan Coombe weren’t able to play because one of the athletes on the team they were supposed to play spent the day in the hospital. They are set to resume play Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. Coach Kathy Lowry said it’s been nice to see the parents in attendance really help the team out, not just their own athletes, but the whole team.

Bowling –
Today was the finals day of singles competition in which the guys did really well. Michael Lunceford bowled a 160 and his average is a 91, so that was a huge improvement; he finished with the gold medal in his division! Chris Miller was in a really tough group and bowled a 208 in one of his games. Another athlete who bowled way over his average was Ryan Fant who typically bowls around a 100, but in his third game had a 163.  Awards followed at Rider University and the athletes didn’t know how they placed until they were on the podium. Ryan had no idea he got a silver and the look on his face after finding out he got silver place was priceless.  Even the usually stoic and quiet Chris had a smile on his face when he found out he won the gold medal in his division.

As far as the lady bowlers, Tanya Johnson got 8th place and really was just happy to be there. Tiffany finished 4th and Lindsey Hawkins took home the bronze.

Wednesday’s schedule includes Unified Doubles and regulation doubles with the team competition set for Thursday.

Flag Football –
The flag football team is still trying to get on track after losing both games today. Coach Steve Wilmesherr said the second game was a lot closer and they played better and really should have won, but they still made too many mistakes to come out on top. The team will square off against Colorado at 11:45 a.m.  Wednesday

Golf –
Coach Ken Neff said the golf team collectively took a step back during competition Tuesday, but athletes still had their heads held high with smiles on their faces as they walked off the course and that’s what is key. As a whole everything is running really smoothly at the golf venue and all of the athletes will need to step up their game on their final day of competition on Wednesday. Ken also said that Tina Jones and Tere’e Trussell’s scores in individual skills (higher scores are better) on Monday weren’t as low as reported in the Monday night newsletter, but in the low 50s instead of the 40s. The team attended the baseball game tonight and Tere’e was one of the athletes who got to throw out the first pitch. They all had a blast at the game.

Powerlifting –
Powerlifters Dary McIntyre and Brianne Chavez had an absolutely phenomenal day of competition according to coach Ed Blaylock. Brianne just totally dominated everyone in the female division and probably could have outlifted most of the men. She set a personal record by squatting 330 lbs. and probably could have done 350 easily if given the chance she was that on it today. She then benched 165 lbs. and deadlifted 358, which gave her a total of 854 lbs. on the day. All of those lifts won her a gold medal and was obviously good enough for the overall gold medal in the combination as well (four gold medals in total).

Dary McIntyre was in a really tough division against some really good competition, but still started off the day by taking gold in the squat. He then took fourth place in the bench press and bronze in the deadlift with 330 lbs. Overall, these three places earned him a silver medal in the combination portion. So, Dary won each of the medals and ribbons available (gold, silver, bronze and 4th place).

While on the awards stand, the athletes not only received their medals, but also get a nice bouquet of flowers. Well, for some reason the flowers weren’t available for the female powerlifters, but following Dary’s awards ceremony, he gave his flowers to Brianne who, isn’t one to really show much emotion, started crying. All in all it was a good day of competition for the Team Missouri powerlifters. They are now finished for the week.

Tennis -

Both Bobby Williams and Brittany Selken competed in singles today before their finals begin on Thursday. Unfortunately, both of them lost their matches. Bobby lost a really close match against an athlete from New Jersey. Coach Peggy Llewellyn-Neff said it was a really close and intense match and probably was the gold medal match with the way it was played.

Both sets of Unified Doubles (with UPs Jeremie Ballinger and Ashley Wurst) will compete Wednesday morning, both for the gold medal.

Volleyball –
The volleyball team had preliminary matches again Colorado and Pennsylvania on Tuesday. In the morning session, Team Missouri won both games (in three sets against Pennsylvania and two against Colorado). In the afternoon, they beat Pennsylvania again (this time in two sets), but lost to Colorado in three really, really close sets. They are adding another team to their division tomorrow in New Jersey. They are set to play at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Wednesday.

Blog posts – 
“This morning, Alex Kunz had gotten a hat from Olympic Village yesterday and he was wearing it. The athletes could get whatever they wanted on it. Alex accidentally said Mom Magic so they put Mom Magic on his hat.” See more of Rachel Antal’s (PR Assistant while at the 2014 USA Games) blog here.  

“If you’re a sports fan there’s a game or performance you always remember, like Michael Jordan’s Flu Game or Tiger Woods winning a major with an injured leg.  Special Olympics is like that as well. There’s always an athlete or a moment that stands out and reminds you why it’s so inspiring. Today was that day for me.” See more of Jeremie Ballinger’s (Unified Partner in tennis) blog here.

“Have I mentioned this bowling alley has 82 lanes? That is pretty challenging when you have six athletes spread out from lane 12 to lane 64. Coach Bea and I took turns running around to check on everyone and give them a little encouragement when they needed it. Luckily MO Magic fans are the best, so there were only a few times when our athletes were truly on their own.” See more of Mandi Steward Ballinger’s (sports manager for bowling) blog here.

“Day 4 (Monday) Competition Begins or the Best Day of My Life…” See more of Linda Wiederholt’s (sports manager for powerlifting and tennis) blog here.

Mobile App -
Don’t forget to download the Team Missouri mobile app on your Apple or Android devices. This will be the most immersive MO Magic experience and the best way to follow the team all week while our athletes are busy making you all proud back home. Whether you’re joining us in New Jersey or watching from afar, the app really does have something for everybody (schedules, photo galleries, alerts on when athletes receive awards, videos and more!). If you don’t have a mobile device capable of utilizing the app, you can still access the app via the web at http://m.core-apps.com/somo_2014 or just stay tuned at www.somo.org/momagic.

Videos -
Get a first-hand account of what it’s like for the athletes as they go through Healthy Athletes® Park with these two videos (here & here)

Photo Galleries -
Photos from the sports and fun activities are available both on our Flickr account and on our Facebook page. They will be updated throughout the week so be sure to check in on a daily basis!

2014 USA Games Team Missouri newsletter — Monday edition!

Greetings from ‘Joisey!’

Today was the first day of competitions (divisioning, pool play and preliminaries) for most of our teams including aquatics, athletics, basketball (both men’s and women’s), bocce, bowling, flag football, golf, tennis and volleyball. 

Aquatics –
Today was the first round of preliminaries at Princeton University. Overall it was an exciting day, where all of the swimmers improved on their times that they typically put up. Libby Waddell was so excited to see her name on the big board with her swim time. She was dancing and waving her hat around she was so ecstatic. Whenever coaches Amy and Teri start to get stressed about something they ask Jennifer Neihouse what they needs to do and she starts singing “Let it Go.” Most swimmers on the team will be back in the pool on Tuesday for more preliminaries and a few finals.

Athletics –
Everybody except Maria Arnett competed today at the beautiful facility at Princeton University. The young ladies who did compete today including Jane Highland, Shelley Antle and Paige Hall, overcame their nerves early on to do well in their preliminaries. Everyone will be competing on Tuesday in their respective events, some of which are the finals, so stay tuned for information as Team Missouri starts to receive awards.

Men’s basketball –
The men’s basketball team played a nail-biter of a game against Texas to start the day. It was a really even match with Team Missouri coming out on top by two points. Coach Stan Smith said he felt like the guys played really well and most of the players got plenty of playing time. They will play against New York on Tuesday morning.

Women’s basketball –
The women’s basketball team went 1-1 in divisioning play today by beating up on Delaware in the first game and losing a heart-breaker by two against Texas. The girls played really hard in both games and the coaches were really pleased at the outcome considering how the team hasn’t been playing together for very long. Coach Keith Patterson said he was really amazed to see some of the typically reserved athletes come out of their shell during the game and show that they weren’t going to be pushed around by bigger opponents. They will play Ohio in the early morning Tuesday.

Bocce –
Today was divisioning for bocce.  Each of the athletes rolled 15 balls so the judges could be sure to put them in the right division against opponents of similar ability.  After divisioning, bocce members were able to go and watch the women’s basketball team play the second half of its game and it was exciting to watch the girls take care of business and win. The bocce team finished out the day with a well-deserved nap and a wonderful trip up the Hudson River on a dinner cruise.

Bowling –
Today was the first day for preliminaries for all bowlers at the massive Brunswick Zone in Lawrence, N.J. Lindsey Hawkins had a turkey, Chris Miller bowled four strikes in a row and Unified Partner CJ O’Neal had five strikes in a row. The Unified Partners will take Tuesday off as the athletes take center stage and bowl their singles games Tuesday morning. Awards will follow shortly thereafter back at Rider University.

Flag Football –
The flag football team had a hard day on Monday losing both of its games. First it played host state New Jersey and then later in the afternoon squared off against Nebraska. Coach Steve Wilmesherr said it was clear a lot of the players had some nerves going into the first game and it showed in their play, but he added that was really proud of how the team played much better in its afternoon game against the Cornhuskers. He said the guys were really fired up for the second game and showed a lot more enthusiasm and intensity; they improved from game one to game two and that’s really all you can ask from a team. He said it’s really easy to quit when you’re down, but they didn’t do that. The flag football team will square off against Wisconsin at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Golf –
Coach Ken Neff said the golf team had a really good first day out on the majestic course at Mercer County Park. Thomas Cleek shot a 106 playing individual 18 holes and he’s bound and determined to break 100 as the week goes on. Chris Ringot shot a 57 for 9 holes and Nick and Jerry McMullen (UP) shot a 64 as a Unified team. The other Unified team of Jocelyn Diehl (UP) and Stephanie Littrell shot a 77, but coach Ken Neff said more importantly they came off the course with huge smiles on their faces. They played with a team from Nebraska and by the end of the round they were all best friends. Stephanie said that today was the most fun she’s ever had and that’s really the point of all of this, right? For individual skills golfers, Tere’e Trussell and Tina Jones both shot a 44 out of 120 possible points. Tere’e started golfing barely 12 months ago and had a nearly perfect score in the short putt section with an 18 of 20 points. But coach Ken Neff summed it up by saying it’s not about the scores because a successful day is one where they’re excited to come off the course and be ready for the next day. It’s one of the best days of golf that we’ve ever had, he said. The golfers will all compete at the same time and location on Tuesday.

Powerlifting –
Powerlifters Dary McIntyre and Brianne Chavez had a day of rest before they start competition Tuesday morning competing in the deadlift, bench press and squat combination competition. Brianne lifts at 9 a.m. and Dary lifts at 1:30 p.m. They spent their day by watching the basketball teams and cheering them on from the stands.

Tennis –
Another fantastic venue was the tennis complex at Mercer County Parks. Monday was the preliminary rounds for singles for Bobby Williams and Brittany Selken. While Brittany lost both of her matches, Bobby won both of his rather easily. Because of the divisioning, coaches Peggy Llewellyn-Neff and Linda Wiederholt were able to take part in a coaches clinic with pros from the United States Tennis Association, which both Peggy and Linda loved. In the evening both doubles teams with Unified Partners, Jeremie Ballinger playing with Bobby (on the center court with stadium seating) and Ashley Wurst playing with Brittany, won their matches against Louisiana and Georgia respectively. Following the women’s match against Georgia the ref told coach Peggy that the two Unified Partners of Ashley and the other from Georgia were the best UPs he’s ever seen since he’s been involved with Special Olympics Unified Sports play. He said they both gave their athletes the best chance to play the balls and they were great on-the-court coaches. Following the wins by both teams, they were invited back to center court to take part in the Unified Sports Showcase, which highlighted Unified Sports play with help from SO New Jersey athletes and tennis pros from the USTA. Tuesday’s competition schedule begins with singles for both Bobby and Brittany. The Unified teams will both be playing for gold bright and early Wednesday morning.

Volleyball – The volleyball team struggled in the first two games, but was able to start putting together the skills to win the last two games compiling a 2-2 record on the first day of divisioning. In addition to it being an early start time, the fact that they weren’t going off of the score, but on a 25 minute play schedule threw them off a bit. Toward the end of the day, players were starting to get their serves over the net and move their feet to get to the ball. There were some great players by all but outstanding plays were made by Shaina Galloway, Matt Montgomery, Arthur Murphy and Jean Buersmeyer.  Everyone began to pull together and started playing like a team by the end. Coach Diane Brimer said the team is really looking forward to getting into a regular game.  She also said that one of the highlights was watching the players meet the other players from the other states and trading their pins back and forth.

Blog posts – 
“Today was the best day yet in Jersey…” See more of Rachel Antal’s (PR Assistant while at the 2014 USA Games) blog here.  

“The spirit of the USA Games are so different from the competitive world of high school and college sports that I am used to; while SOMO athletes are playing their hardest to win, they are also the first to encourage a competitor and wish them the best, which I love to watch.” See more of Jocelyn Dieh’s (Unified Partner in golf) blog here.

“Most everyone bowled right at or above their existing average, which is good news…” See more of Mandi Steward Ballinger’s (sports manager for bowling) blog here.

“The whole program was high emotional charge.  The theme of Champions was carried throughout.  I have been to two previous nationals and none of them compared to this electric event.  I can’t even find the words so I hope you were there or streamed it on the computer…” See more of Linda Wiederholt’s (sports manager for powerlifting and tennis) blog here. After a few technical difficulties, Linda’s blog is now up to date with three posts Monday night, so be sure to catch up!

Mobile App -
Don’t forget to download the Team Missouri mobile app on your Apple or Android devices. This will be the most immersive MO Magic experience and the best way to follow the team all week while our athletes are busy making you all proud back home. Whether you’re joining us in New Jersey or watching from afar, the app really does have something for everybody (schedules, photo galleries, alerts on when athletes receive awards, videos and more!). If you don’t have a mobile device capable of utilizing the app, you can still access the app via the web at http://m.core-apps.com/somo_2014 or just stay tuned at www.somo.org/momagic.

Videos -
Get a first-hand account of what it’s like on the dinner cruise with volleyball player George Richardson with these two videos (here & here)

Men’s basketball player Scott Wright talks to his teammates about their matchup against their first opponent of the games in Team Texas

Scott then takes us to the Special Olympics Town where he meets up with and interviews a WWE superstar

Photo Galleries -

Photos from the sports and fun activities are available both on our Flickr account and on our Facebook page. They will be updated throughout the week so be sure to check in on a daily basis!

2014 USA Games Team Missouri newsletter — Sunday edition

Hello from New Jersey!

Today most of the sports teams were able to go to their venues and see where they would be playing  this week. Some even had the chance to practice, which was nice after such a long travel day yesterday.

Tennis started the morning off with divisioning competition. One Unified Sports team of Jeremie Ballinger and Bobby Williams went 4-0 with wins over Maryland (10-4 and 10-0), South Carolina (10-6) and New Jersey (11-9). To get a first-hand account of how the team faired, check out Jeremie’s blog at www.somo.org/jeremie.

The other team of Ashley Wurst and Brittany Selken won two matches (Maryland 10-4 and New Jersey 10-5) and lost two (Rhode Island 7-10 and Connecticut 6-10).

Overall, coaches Linda Wiederholt and Peggy Llewellyn-Neff said they were proud of how both teams battled and got their nerves out of the way early as they head into competition Monday, which will include being a part of the Unified Sports Showcase under the lights on center court at the beautiful Mercer County Park beginning as early as 6 p.m.

Family Pep Rally
More than 120 family members and friends attended the Family Pep Rally at the family hotel Sunday morning where Team Missouri Assistant Head of Delegation Susan Shaffer addressed the family members. Shaffer talked about what they could expect throughout the week at each of the venues.

SOMO President and CEO Mark Musso also took time to thank the parents for coming all the way to New Jersey to support their athletes. He told them that while this week is for the athletes, it’s also for them as well and for them to enjoy it! He also told them to focus on this week being more about a journey instead of the destination.

There were plenty of goodies for the families to take to the venues throughout the week to cheer on not just their team, but the rest of Team Missouri as well. It sounded like they were pretty excited to defend the “Best Fans of the Games” award that we received in 2010 at the games in Lincoln, Neb.

Opening Ceremony
All of the team traveled on buses to Newark, New Jersey for Opening Ceremony at the Prudential Center where the New Jersey Devils of the National Hockey League play their home games. The WHOLE highway was shut down so that the buses could travel and have police escorts. Not just certain sections of the highway, but the whole thing. It was a sight to see. Photos are on the mobile app photo gallery and our social media accounts (Twitter: @SOMissouri & Facebook: SpecialOlympicsMO). One of our bus drivers said he’s been driving charter busses around the state for years and he’s never seen anything like it.

Actor and super model Brooklyn Decker and Philadelphia 76ers Rookie of the Year Michael Carter Williams hosted the Opening Ceremony. A Billy Joel tribute band performed as did a few, select members of the Broadway show “Wicked.”

Actor Jane Lynch and The Big Show and David Otunga of the WWE and multiple other celebrities made appearances. A Unified softball team from Maryland carried in the Special Olympics flag and hung it with Lashelle Griffin singing. Then came time for the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg participants to bring the torch in and light the cauldron to signify the beginning of the games.

The whole focus of the Opening Ceremony was “Unify.” From how the athletes interact with themselves and the volunteers this weekend to the different sports that feature Unified Sports teams, the message was about making sure everyone knew that we are more alike than different and that unites us all. Each part of the cauldron represented a foundation of Special Olympics. They lit the torch and Chairman of Special Olympics Inc., Tim Shriver declared the games officially open.

The athletes made it back to the dorms around 10 p.m. and received their boxed dinner (a little late, but we were so hungry didn’t care) and headed off to bed to begin their week of competition.

For photos from the Family Pep Rally and Opening Ceremony, click here. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.725967997466507.1073741878.117595708303742&type=1 or you can look on Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/somissouri/, which will also let you download full high-resolution photos.

Mobile App
Don’t forget to download the Team Missouri mobile app on your Apple or Android devices. This will be the most immersive MO Magic experience and the best way to follow the team all week while our athletes are busy making you all proud back home. Whether you’re joining us in New Jersey or watching from afar, the app really does have something for everybody (schedules, photo galleries, alerts on when athletes receive awards, videos and more!). If you don’t have a mobile device capable of utilizing the app, you can still access the app via the web at http://m.core-apps.com/somo_2014 or just stay tuned at http://www.somo.org/momagic.

“We had police escorts that took us all the way to Newark. We got our first glimpse of the New York City skyline which was pretty neat…” Read the rest of Rachel Antal, the Public Relations Assistant’s, blog at www.somo.org/rachel.

“The National Anthem singer put a unique twist on it, which usually makes me cringe, but this was actually a really cool rock version that ended in fireworks. Several entertainers performed, my favorite of which was the cast of Wicked singing “Defying Gravity.” Read the rest of Mandi, the Bowling Sports Manager’s, blog at www.somo.org/mandi.

“Our mission today was simple; experience USA Games Opening Ceremonies and let it blow our minds!” Read the rest of Jocelyn, a Unified Golf partner’s, blog at www.somo.org/jocelyn.

Athletics athlete Allen Tobin gives you a behind the scenes look before Opening Ceremony (http://youtu.be/7wZbzNrqZjk)

Bocce athlete Matthew Cepeda lets you walk into Opening Ceremony with Team Missouri (http://youtu.be/0JzsZHYM5QY)

St. Louis family realizes potential of son through Young Athletes Program

Raising a child with special needs can be a challenge for any parent.  John and Sarah Bowen of St. Louis were willing to take on the challenge – and the privilege – when they adopted their son, Jonah.

“I can’t say it was easy,” Sarah said.  “The whole adoption process itself can be emotional; and knowing that there’s a possibility that special needs could come up in the future definitely added to that chaos of adoption, but the first year with him was really good.”

Both John and Sarah have worked in the medical field and therefore had a better understanding of early warning signs for intellectual disabilities.

Despite the possibility of raising a child with special needs, John and Sarah wanted to provide the best care possible for their son.

Sarah recalled that he was “just a typical baby and it was pretty much at his first birthday that he crawled and we noticed that certain milestones weren’t being met. That went on from there to different doctors to figure out how we could help.”

One outlet that has helped both Jonah, 4, and his parents has been their involvement in the Young Athletes® Program provided by Special Olympics Missouri. YAP is a sport and play program designed for children ages 3-7. Depending on the location of the program, it’s typically a one-hour session that lasts between four to eight weeks twice a year.

The program is designed get kids active by participating in games that will help build skills toward eventual sports inclusion as they grow up. While the program falls under the Special Olympics umbrella of programs, it’s open to all children, not just those with intellectual disabilities.

John and Sarah have been able to gain a support system through YAP.  They both had positive feedback about the Young Athletes Program and what it means to them: “In a way, I would say it’s hope,” Sarah said.  “It’s invaluable.  We cherish the time we get to spend with other parents because they may just be saying something off the cuff and it sparks an idea it’s like ‘Oh, yeah, maybe we should look into that.’

“The joy for me is seeing Jonah running around participating, smiling and having a good time, but there’s also selfishly the parent side of it that I can take a break for an hour and talk to other adults.”

John agreed, “There are resources and help out there … (shows you) that you’re not alone.  Everybody has a little bit of a different situation, but there are things we can share and learn from each other and I think that’s a good resource in that aspect, too.”

While Jonah’s parents have been able to gain a support system, Jonah has been able to gain confidence both intellectually and athletically.  His growth has not gone unnoticed by his parents.

“He was always just…I wouldn’t say he was afraid, but there was always that barrier that he couldn’t seem to get over, but being in the Young Athletes Program especially has helped him with his confidence in doing activities and different sports and stepping over that barrier and going for it,” Sarah said.

John said Jonah can be himself at YAP functions.

“The program allows him to express himself just because the program is so active and it keeps him going,” John said.

Those who are in charge of running the Young Athletes Program have also observed the ways in which the program has benefited the Bowen family. One of those individuals is the St. Louis Metro Area Program Outreach Manager Aimee Loyet.

“Jonah is one of my most exciting young athletes by far,” Loyet said.  “He does – for being such a little person and a young man – have a huge personality and a knack at commanding an entire room and getting people to feel comfortable and happy.  He’s such a bright young boy and I’ve seen so much growth in him over the last few years.”

Because of Jonah’s continued growth and the support from his parents, they have endless opportunities for their future involvement with Special Olympics Missouri.

“I see not only the family but Jonah being able to lead his peers and be involved with the Athlete Leadership Program and spreading the word of SOMO,” Loyet said. “He would be a great spokesperson to have such longevity with the program as he moves into adulthood.”

Loyet said the Young Athletes Program is more than just training children with intellectual disabilities.  It’s also training families and parents on having a support group, friends and additional resources in a non-judgmental group of parents who are going through those same struggles.

To learn more details about a Young Athletes Program near you, please visit our website at www.somo.org.

Internship Posting: Cycle for the Future Event Planner/Marketing Intern

Cycle for the Future Internship

Brief Description: This intern will work directly with the Cycle for the Future Event Planner of Special Olympics Missouri. The intern will have opportunities to help recruit participants, plan ancillary event, work on publicity all to raise money through this unique event.  This is a pro bono position based in Jefferson City and the intern will be expected to work roughly 15 hours per week.

Details: Internship length and hours are flexible, depending on the student’s needs.   Intern would need a weekly presence in the office – ideally at least 2 days per week. Full days in the office aren’t required as some work can be done from home. 

Event Details: Cycle for the Future is a two-day cycling fundraiser on the Katy Trail where riders have the option of riding from St. Charles to Jefferson City or Clinton to Jefferson City. The event takes place Sept. 20-21, 2014. Along the route, riders will have the opportunity to volunteer at “demonstration stops” where SOMO athletes will come and take part in a 1.5-2-hour demonstration on cycling. For more information on the ride, visit www.somo.org/cycleforthefuture.

 Examples of tasks in priority order include:

  • Actively recruit participants
  • Communicate effective messages about the event and Special Olympics Missouri to the public
  • Ensure CftF “Best Practices” are being followed
  • Distribute participant packets
  • Draft E-comm messages to constituents
  • Monitor participant registration system
  • Come up with ideas to help plan the logistics of the event
  • Provide logistical support to event planner and committee
  • Onsite at event – photography, customer service, media relations, sponsor relations
  • Liaison for potential sponsors and donors

Qualifications: The ideal candidate should be creative and enthusiastic, flexible, independent and be willing to join a team that works very hard to carry out the mission of Special Olympics Missouri. Experience and education in business management, journalism, public relations or communications and some special events fundraising experience is preferred.

Timeframe: Start ASAP and ends shortly after the ride in late September (We can work around your school schedule once it starts up again in August)

Application Instructions: Send in your resume and cover letter to Brandon Schatsiek at schatsiek@somo.org.

Contact Information: Brandon Schatsiek, Public Relations Coordinator; 573-635-1660, schatsiek@somo.org

A Little Encouragement Goes a Long Way

When it comes to facing one’s fears, Allison D’Agostino, 25, has conquered them by participating in Special Olympics Missouri for seven years.

D’Agostino competes in bowling and aquatics with aquatics being her favorite sport.  “I feel free whenever I’m in the water,” D’Agostino said.  “I don’t know why, but I do.”

However, that wasn’t always the case when she first started training with SOMO and her Central Area coaches, Jody Cook and Kelly Collins.

Allison D'Agostino gets a high-five from her swim coach Kelly Collins following a few laps in the pool.

Allison D’Agostino gets a high-five from her swim coach Kelly Collins following a few laps in the pool.

“The first years she trained with us she didn’t compete,” Cook said.  “She found competition intimidating.  Her second year she was skeptical about competing.”

Luckily for D’Agostino, Cook knew the words of encouragement D’Agostino needed to hear to get out there and compete.

“I told her that for a swimmer of her talent competing was required.  I still remember what a kick she got out of her first swim meet!” Cook said.

D’Agostino’s coaches have noticed how those words of encouragement have motivated her to continue competing in aquatics.

“D’Agostino is eager to ask what she can do to improve after each set and constantly strives to better herself as an athlete,” Collins said. “She is always the first one in the pool and the last one out.  D’Agostino just enjoys being in the water and you can tell that by her good attitude during practice.  I can see the effort she puts in each practice to improve herself and her races.”

Conquering Fears

Facing her initial fears of competing has allowed D’Agostino to gain confidence in several aspects of her life.

At 25 years old, D’Agostino has lived on her own for nearly four years.  Her favorite part about living independently is the privacy.  “I get things done much quicker without a roommate,” D’Agostino said.

D’Agostino has her very own YouTube Channel called The Esperanza243 as well as a radio show on BlogTalkRadio.com entitled Show Time, Radio Time.  Her experience with these hobbies was a major reason why she was originally nominated by the Central Area to be highlighted in May.

They have allowed her to gain confidence, so much so that she recently trained as a Global Messenger for SOMO and was quite impressive – according to the Central Area Program Director, Diane Brimer.  D’Agostino came prepared with a speech that she had written on her very own.  She was then given the opportunity to be the athlete speaker at the 2014 Polar Plunge in Columbia.

On top of all of these responsibilities, D’Agostino maintains a job at Wendy’s.  “At times, it feels repetitive.  But I can’t imagine any other job to have right now,” she said. “Great co-workers, great regular guests to talk with, and 50 percent discount on food; I’m loving it.

All-around Athlete

It is no surprise that D’Agostino is adored by many of her peers.  When asked what sets her apart, Cook said it’s her “fun-loving, outgoing, kind and caring heart/spirit and the fact that she is well rounded.  She loves competing, and is a dedicated athlete, but doesn’t take it all too seriously.  Her life is balanced with sports, reading, writing and school.”

Collins said despite her reserved nature in the beginning, D’Agostino has recently come into her own in the last few years of involvement in SOMO.

“D’Agostino has a very bright and bubbly personality.  She is very upbeat and enjoys laughing at practice, even when she is worn out.  D’Agostino is very into her writing and poetry and enjoys sharing her writings with the others on the team.  She has a good relationship with her other team members.  It is uncommon to see her alone; instead she is interacting with her teammates and seeing how they are doing” Collins said.

Being actively involved with SOMO, D’Agostino has had the ability to impact the lives of those around her as well as her own.

“To me, SOMO is a social sports get-together,” D’Agostino said. “No matter what sport you’re doing, you get to meet new people; you get to stay fit; you improve what you’re great at; your body moves to a rhythm for well-needed exercise.  I don’t care about the medals, because I’m having fun with my friends.”


D’Agostino’s peers and coaches have noticed the way in which she puts others first.

“D’Agostino has an infectious joy about her that is contagious” Collins said.  “She is always willing to help other athletes out if they do not understand something and she does.  She also takes the time to ask other coaches and athletes how they are doing.  She truly cares about those around her, which makes her someone that everyone wants to be around.”

D'Agostino shows her appreciation for one of her coaches by giving her a big hug following a swim practice.

D’Agostino shows her appreciation for one of her coaches by giving her a big hug following a swim practice.

A good story that personifies D’Agostino’s positive attitude involves her teammates.

D’Agostino eagerly took on a leadership role at a recent swim meet.  Rather than focusing on herself, she made sure that her teammates were focused and excited for the upcoming competition.

Collins recalls her “high-fiving the three other swimmers on her relay before they each went to their respective ends of the pool.”

D’Agostino didn’t stop there, either.

“During awards, D’Agostino put her arms around the rest of the relay to unify the relay as a one group and not four individual swimmers.” Collins said.  “She focuses on the team and not on herself, which is such a wonderful thing.”

Anything is Possible

“Since I became an athlete, I’ve changed,” D’Agostino said.  “My confidence is growing.  I have more friends now than ever, who I need to stay connected with.  I’m getting more connections through SOMO.

“I’m a Global Messenger, which I absolutely love and because of that, my YouTube channel and my radio show have improved.  I’ll finally get a book published this year and I am proud of who I am becoming.”