Athletes rack up the hardware in New Jersey

MARSHALL – Marissa Davis and Kari Groebner were all smiles as they displayed their medals they won while representing Team Minnesota at the Special Olympics 2014 USA Games in New Jersey last week. They made the trip with their coaches Deb Picht and Marilyn Strate from Marshall.

“We had the time of our lives,” said Picht, who coaches bowling. “I’d go back in a heartbeat.”

Groebner brought home two gold medals for singles and doubles bowling and a silver medal for team bowling. She said she bowled a high game score of 177 and a high series score of 516.

Davis competed in aquatics and brought home a silver medal for the 25 yard backstroke, finishing the event in just 26.78 seconds. She also won two bronze medals for the 4×50 freestyle team relay and the 50 yard backstroke as well as a sixth-place ribbon for the 50 yard freestyle event.

The Olympians and their coaches said that they had a pretty grueling schedule.

“We were up early in the morning and to bed late each day,” Strate said.

Groebner said she bowled “three games each day.”

“Monday was prelims, Tuesday was singles, Wednesday was doubles, and Thursday was the team event,” Picht said. Davis also participated in four events in four days “with preliminaries and finals in everything,” said Strate.

Groebner showed some photos from her phone of her bowling team and the podium where they were awarded medals.

“We came back as a bowling family,” said Picht. “The guys and girls did everything together and it was wonderful.”

They also got to meet a professional bowler at the games and receive their awards from him. Davis got to meet a famous swimmer while competing at the games, too.

“Dora Torres, the Olympic swimmer, came and did autographs, pictures and awards,” Strate said. “One of the cool things for our swim team was that each sport did a showcase, and our sport did an evening competition and our 4×50 relay team that Marissa was on was in the showcase. They had television cameras and special guests.”

Both of the athletes’ families made the trip to New Jersey to cheer them on. Davis and Groebner said that there were a lot of spectators.

“The pool was over capacity,” Strate said, but Davis said she wasn’t nervous about having to swim in front of so many people.

“I was nervous at the prelims,” Groebner said, but later got comfortable with the lanes at the New Jersey bowling alley.

The trip was more than just competition, as the athletes also got to go on a cruise along the Hudson River and around the Statue of Liberty, attend a Trenton Thunder baseball game and visit the Special Olympic Town that featured a carnival atmosphere with games and rides. Athletes and coaches were also given state pins that they could trade with other participants that they met at the games.

“We even had a police escort to the opening ceremonies,” Groebner said.

The athletes will be heading to Minneapolis next week to celebrate and be honored at a baseball game.

“We get to go to a Twins game next Tuesday to celebrate,” Groebner said.

“We get to be part of the pre-game ceremonies and go on the field,” Picht said.

When asked if she will get to meet Joe Mauer, Groebner replied, “oh, I hope so!”