Trevor Chester’s first time competing on a national stage turned out to be a golden opportunity.
Representing Pennsylvania, Chester, 38, won two gold medals, in traditional team bowling and singles bowling, at the recent Special Olympics USA Games in Princeton, N.J.
He was one of four Centre County residents among the 3,500 athletes from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., who convened for the June 14 games.
Joining him were Greg Focht, 47; Carolyn Bechtel, 54; and Emily Mowery, 20, all of whom met with success.
As partners, Mowery and Chester took sixth place in unified doubles. Although this was Chester’s debut at the nationals, he has competed many times in the Special Olympics Summer Games for bowling, swimming and golf.
“My favorite is probably bowling. I had a blast because I got to meet lots of new people and I made lots of new friends,” Chester said.
Two years ago, Focht competed in the international Special Olympics in golf, but he focused his skills on a different area this year for the nationals.
Focht has been participating in Special Olympics for more than 30 years, and he used that experience to represent Team Pennsylvania in bocce, earning fourth place in doubles, silver in team and gold in singles.
Bechtel had never been to the national games before, and had never competed in bocce. Nevertheless, it did not stop her from winning gold in doubles, silver in teams and fourth in singles.
She also enjoyed some moments away from games.
“We also did the boat ride in Princeton and we had dinner on the boat with the team and coaches,” Bechtel said. “On Thursday, we went to see the baseball game in Trenton.”
Jennifer Trest has led Team Pennsylvania for 19 years, and this year — with 200 athletes and 70 coaches — Pennsylvania had its largest delegation ever.
“We had a terrific time and I’m very proud of our athletes,” Trest said. “They showed incredible sportsmanship whether they won a ribbon or a medal.”
The games were a success not only for local athletes, but also for the state of New Jersey. Inspired by the games, Gov. Chris Christie signed a law requiring all New Jersey school districts to give equal opportunities to special-needs children to participate in team and individual sports.
In Pennsylvania, school districts are required to include disabled students in sports programs or provide equal alternatives, but New Jersey’s new law goes further by mandating that districts “ensure that a student with a disability has an equal opportunity to participate in physical education programs, participate in existing classroom activities that involve physical activity, and try out for and, if selected, participate in athletic programs.”
The Centre County delegation returned home June 20, bringing with it a total of four gold and two silver medals.
Casey McCracken can be reached at 231-4646.