Special Olympics Wisconsin assembled 15 athletes and four coaches from around the state of Wisconsin to join more than 250 Special Olympics athletes in Nashville, Tennessee for the 2019 Special Olympics North America Softball Championship held August 15-18.
The event included Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners representing 17 teams from 14 U.S. and Canadian Special Olympics programs. This was the first time this international tournament took place in Nashville, Tennessee.
All of the competition took place at Cane Ridge Ball Park in the Nashville suburb of Antioch. The weekend consisted of 3 days of games with medal games taking place on the last day of competition.
The Wisconsin Force started out the tournament with some heavy hitting that propelled them to win three of their first four games by a combined score of 65-31. Athletes Jimmy Graf of Manitowoc, Jeremy Krutina of Milwaukee, and Dustin Scott of Grafton helped power the explosive offense with home runs in the first two days. On the final day of competition, the Force fell to Canada with a final scoring of 23-11, securing the bronze medal for the team.
As much fun as the team had on the field, they were also able to take in the Nashville sights during the trip. On Thursday evening, the teams had the opportunity to enjoy a Nashville Sounds minor league baseball game and cheer them on from the stands.
On Saturday, after two grueling days of games, the Wisconsin Force was able to relax by attending the Tennessee Titans Vs. New England Patriots preseason NFL Game at Nissan Stadium.
The weekend action on and off the field also served as an incredible opportunity for athletes to make new friends from across the country and even abroad. Athlete Colton Lohrenz of Oneida said the opportunity to meet new people was one of his favorite parts of the trip.
“I really enjoyed meeting people from other teams. I met some new friends from Kansas, Canada, Florida and Nashville,” Lohrenz said.
The trip was extra special for athletes Christina and Josh Follen, who had the added bonus of experiencing the once-in-a-lifetime trip as husband and wife.
The Wisconsin Force was led by head coach Pauline Ho and assistant coaches Richard Ehrgrott, Deb Moore-Gruenloh, and Dale Schloemer.
The 2019 Wisconsin Force would like to thank the following major sponsors for helping them reach the 2019 Special Olympics North America Softball Championships:
Circle B Recreation Center, Grafton
McCain Foods USA, Inc., Appleton
R&J Transport Inc., Manitowoc
V & Company Salon and SPA, Auburndale
Perkins Restaurant and Bakery, Appleton West
Heinzen Printing, Inc., Marshfield
John Miner Sports, LLC, Stratford
MDC Belleview, LLC, Green Bay