Athletes ‘have a blast’ at bocce ball tournament

MARSHALL – Sounds of bocce balls clacking, happy cheering and clapping and whoops of joy soared through the air at Legion Field in Marshall Saturday morning.

Athletes from Marshall, Redwood Falls and Renville County took part in the Area 6 and 8 Bocce Ball Tournament for Special Olympics Saturday. This is the second year that Marshall has hosted the bocce ball tournament. Coaches Deb Picht of Marshall and Cathy Morris of Redwood Falls said in past years, it’s been in other places, like Montevideo and Luverne.

The coaches said the game of bocce ball is easy to play.

“It’s something (you can do) no matter how old you are,” Morris said.

“Anybody can do it,” Deb Picht said.

Morris noted that the athletes enjoy themselves during the day and show good sportsmanship.

“They have a blast,” Morris said. She said if you watch the athletes, you see how much fun they’re having, the jumping up and down, the high-fiving. “They become friends with everyone who’s here. People aren’t going to look at your disability.”

The good sportsmanship and good time was evident on the courts that were set up in the park.

“Good job Maria,” Monica Thooft said, cheering on Maria VanKeulen as VanKeulen rolled the ball down the court.

In another court, Sabrina Polfliet was up against Jenny Ross.

Polfliet said it was “cool” to play bocce ball.

“I think it’s great,” said Sabrina’s mother Sandie, adding she helps out at practice and volunteers. Last year, Sabrina took third place.

In the end, Polfliet took first place in her division, while Ross got second.

“Good job Sabrina,” Ross told Polfliet after the awards ceremony.

“Thank you,” Polfliet said as the two exchanged a high-five.

Athletes Lisa Picht and Kari Groebner said they enjoy getting out and taking part in the tournament.

“It’s fun being with other people,” Picht said.

“It’s a lot of fun, you get to be with your friends,” Groebner said.

Groebner recently took part in the Special Olympics 2014 USA Games for bowling. She used those skills in her bocce ball game.

“I threw really far,” Groebner said.

Groebner said there’s one goal when playing bocce ball.

“You want to get the other team to lose,” Groebner said.

“Yeah,” added Lisa Picht.

Last year, Groebner said she took first and third place in the tournament with her bocce ball partner.

On Saturday, Groebner headed out with Matt Bellecourt, her doubles partner, to take on Jenell Weber and Justin Nelson of Redwood Falls. A coin toss decided who was to go first.

“Heads,” Groebner said as the coin flipped. It came up tails.

“Go for it Justin,” Weber said as Nelson made the first throw.

Arlene Marron of Marshall was watching her son, David, play in the doubles round.

“This is such a great place to have this,” she said. She said the tournament was a good event for the athletes.

David Marron, along with Scott Wersal, were playing against Andrew Hexum and Ryan Schultz. Schultz and Hexum said it was nice to get outside, enjoying the weather, hanging out with people like Marron and Wersal and overall having fun.

Hexum said he had one strategy while playing bocce ball.

“Trying to get as close as possible,” Hexum said.