September 2, 2014

Medina
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Sports Hall of Fame: Flash eyes another state title

Steve King

The best run of success ever by a Medina County sports team?

There are a lot of choices.

Wadsworth High wrestling has been outstanding for a long time. So have Medina girls soccer and Wadsworth girls basketball. Brunswick football is in the conversation, too.

The Flash will be honored Thursday during Medina County Sports Hall of Fame ceremonies at The Galaxy Restaurant in Wadsworth. The Flash won its second straight Special Olympics softball title. (PHOTO PROVIDED)

The list could go on and on.

But somewhere on it, the Medina County Flash has to be included. In fact, an argument could be made that the team is at or near the top of the list.

After all, how many other programs have won two straight state titles?

The Flash has — in Special Olympics softball — and will go for three in a row later this year.

So this program, based out of the Medina County Achievement Center and under the umbrella of the Medina County Board of Developmental Disabilities, is no flash in a span.

What the team has done — and hopes to do again, this time with a different and impressive twist, presenting the program with its biggest mountain to climb — will be on display for all to see when the Flash is honored at the 28th annual Medina County Sports Hall of Fame banquet Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at The Galaxy Restaurant in Wadsworth.

It all started in 2011 when the Flash won the state crown in Division III, the lowest division in Special Olympics softball in Ohio.

Special Olympics Ohio has a rule that if a defending state champion is fundamentally the same team as the year before, it has to move to the next division. No problem with the division upgrade for the Flash in 2012, as it captured the D-II crown.

The Flash will come back this year with basically the same players, but will be bumped up to D-I, the state’s top classification.

“The players have come up to me from time to time since last season and asked, ‘Is it going to be tougher this year?’” said Larry Staples, a Seville resident and Medina High graduate who has combined with his wife, Tammy, a Cloverleaf grad, to coach the team for a decade and a half. “They understand the situation. They know what they’re up against.

“They have some doubts, and our job as coaches will be to get rid of those doubts.”

But at the same time, there is confidence. That’s what two consecutive state titles, the first of which was won after the Flash rallied from a 13-run deficit in the seventh inning to top Summit County, will do.

“We’re going to do it,” said center fielder Robert Young of Medina, a member of the first two championship teams. “We’re going to go all the way again this year. I’m certain of it.”

Medina resident Brett Chappelle, a teammate and friend (his sister, Traci, is dating Young), agrees.

“We’re ready for the challenge,” Chappelle said.

Added Adam Biggins, a first baseman from Medina who is on the team for the third straight year: “I knew after we won the first championship that we would come back and win a second one. And I feel good about this year, too, but it’s going to be tough, let me tell you.”

Flash players have already rolled up their sleeves by setting up additional practices. Staples knows what he and his wife, plus assistant coach and Medina resident Bill Biegel, will add from their end.

Patience.

“We coach this team pretty much the same as we would if these guys were not Special Olympians,” Staples said. “We don’t lighten up. We don’t cut any corners.

“But with a Special Olympics team, what is different is that you have to be a little more patient. From coaching for so long, we’ve seen what happens in Special Olympics when other coaches aren’t so patient. That doesn’t work with these individuals.”

Yes, this is Special Olympics, where there is so much more going on than just sports. This is about changing lives.

“I feel like I mean something when I have success in softball,” Young explained in a telling remark. “I feel like a brand new person.”

In a similar way, being part of all this has also really meant something to the coaches.

“Watching these people go out and give it their all is so satisfying and exciting, whether we win, lose or draw,” Staples said. “I grew up with a special needs sister, so I feel kind of drawn to do this.

“But it’s not easy to be a coach. You have to spend a lot of time away from your family to do it. There are long hours. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, though. It’s all worth it. The experience is priceless.”

When the Flash was on its way home from the state tournament in Toledo last year, the players couldn’t contain their joy.

“We stopped to eat, and the players brought the championship trophy into the restaurant,” Staples said. “They let everybody in the room know that they had won the state title.”

The Flash would like that chance again.

“It would mean everything to me and all my teammates to win that third championship,” Biggins said. “It would feel amazing to represent Medina County like that again. It would bring out big smiles on all of our faces.”

Contact Steve King at sports@medina-gazette.com.