Athletes medal in the 50th annual Special Olympics USA games

MORGANTOWN — Call it the Seattle Shuffle.

Scarlet Bazzle, Kristian Rowan and Danielle Cottingham were all displaying the same walk Tuesday morning at SteppingStones.

When one’s neck is garlanded by Olympic medals, one’s gait is just different, it seems.

“I think we did pretty well,” Kristian said. “I’m happy with it.”

The medal-wearers represented Monongalia County and West Virginia last week in Washington state.

They were among 4,000 athletes from across the country who competed in the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, which wrapped up last Friday in Seattle.

All three medaled in their respective events, and all three got their start in competitive athletics through SteppingStones, the Mylan Park facility that gives such opportunities to people who might not have them otherwise.

On Tuesday, they came back to their home base, as it were, to celebrate.

Setting them up, and (well, you know)

In Seattle, Scarlet, who can send pins cartwheeling like the storm troopers in a “Star Wars” movie, claimed gold and silver, plus another fourth-place ribbon, in bowling, her sport of choice.

In one of her medal matches, she strung a series of strikes together, to the delight of the crowd at Kenmore Lanes.

Scarlet flashed her trademark smile while displaying her laid-back demeanor at the same time.

Was she nervous?

“Not really,” she said. “It was like this” — she gave two thumbs-up to illustrate — “and I just let the ball go.”

In-the-water demolition

Kristian and Danielle, meanwhile, had the Olympian task of moving all that water in the swimming venues at the University of Washington and King County Aquatic Center.

Both are strong swimmers. Kristin excels at the backstroke, and Danielle is known for her butterfly.

Kristin struck gold and also paddled home with two bronze medals.

Danielle swam for a silver and a fourth-place ribbon.

Kristian said the experience of competition on that level was like swimming through a tunnel.

“I wasn’t really thinking about anything except making my laps and my turns,” she said.

“Everything just kind of went away when I was up there,” Danielle said. “I was getting tired, but I wasn’t gonna stop.”

The two West Virginians, who are good friends, found themselves in a unique position on the Big Stage in Seattle.

In one race, they were paired against each other. They left the rest of the field in their wake.

Kristian won, and Danielle was a close second.

Before they hit the water, they looked over at each other and grinned.

After, they hugged at the watery finish line.

Lyndsay Hinkle, their swim coach through Monongalia County Special Olympics, moved some water of her own, what with all those tears she was brushing back.

“I was proud of them,” she said. “I wish I’d had the chance to see Scarlet compete, but we were so busy with the swimming.”

No Needle — but lots of pageantry

“Busy,” was the watchword for the competition, which ran July 1-6.

All three did sneak in some sight-seeing in Seattle, even though they never got to go up in the city’s famed “Space Needle” structure.

And all three thrilled at the spectacle of the opening ceremonies, which featured a 2,018-voice choir that sent notes soaring higher than the Needle itself.

There’s also the history to consider: Scarlet, Kristian and Danielle competed in the 50th annual Games.

The first competitions were held in 1968 in Chicago.

Morgantown hosted the West Virginia Summer Games for years.

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