Olentangy Valley News

Racers 'pumped' after victory over archrivals

County's Special Olympics basketball team falls short in finals, but gains confidence

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Delaware County Racers head coach Tom Brown (center) talks strategy with his team at halftime of the Ohio Special Olympics school-age boys basketball championship game March 21 in Bowling Green. The Racers lost 39-29 to the Richland County Bears.

While many residents were focused on the opening round of March Madness, a group of athletes from closer to home were taking a shot at winning a basketball championship.

The Delaware County Racers, the local school-age Special Olympics boys basketball team, came up one game short of a state title March 21.

The team traveled to Bowling Green, where it lost 39-29 to the Richland County Bears in the state championship game. The win gave Richland County its third consecutive state title.

Powell resident Tom Brown, head coach of the Racers, said his team played hard, but Richland County had the better team that day.

"(The Bears) just played better defensively," he said. "It was very hard for us to get the ball inside."

The Racers were led on offense by Cameron Vogt, who had 13 points. Nate Brown had six and Derek Crunkleton and Jack Deacon each added five.

Still, this season was anything but disappointing for the Racers, Brown said. To get to the state championship, the team had to win a regional tournament March 2, which included a victory over archrival the Columbus Comets Gold.

Brown said the Comets had beaten the Racers at least 10 consecutive times before Delaware County finally won in the regional tournament.

Sharon Taylor, director of the Delaware County Special Olympics program, said the team, its coaches and fans were ecstatic after winning the tournament.

"They were very excited. They were very pumped," she said. "They felt like they really accomplished something.

This season was not the Racers' first experience with championship play. The team won a Division II state title in 2009.

"Since then, we've been in Division I, which is much more competitive," Brown said.

Before the team entered regional play, it played its regular-season games at Willis Intermediate School in Delaware.

Brown said the Racers always have strong support from the fans at their home games.

"When we play at home, people always come out," he said. "A lot of the kids' teachers and people who work with them throughout the years (attend)."

Taylor said both the Delaware and Olentangy school districts allow the Special Olympics to use their facilities for sporting events.

"All the local schools have been wonderful to us," she said.

Taylor said athletes either come to the program through recommendations from the county's school districts or the Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

Brown said the Special Olympics program helps its athletes learn important lessons about winning, losing and the hard work it takes to be successful.

"I think it's just added confidence," he said. "They feel much more capable -- not just in basketball but life in general."

Members of the 2014 Delaware Racers are: Nate Brown, Colin Carroll, Derek Crunkleton, Jack Deacon, Victor Johnson, Zach Pugh, Jonathan Schmotzer, Alex Smith, Cameron Vogt and Michael Wyrick.

Coaches are: head coach Tom Brown; assistant coaches Mark Carroll, Gary Johnson and Mason Long; and junior coach Caleb Carroll.