COLUMBUS — Competition brought out the best in three Knox County power lifters this weekend. The trio, led by Mount Vernon’s Josh Endsley, put on a strong showing at the Special Olympics State Championships, which were held at Ohio State University’s Drake Performance Center.
Endsley won the overall gold medal in his weight class after winning the gold in the bench press and the silver in the dead lift.
Seth Cox was fourth in both events and fourth in his weight class. Blake Berger won the bronze in the deadlift and was sixth in the bench press, finishing sixth in his weight class.
It was a whole new experience for Endsley, Cox and Blake. With 110 competitors, there were lifters representing 79 of the 88 different counties in Ohio. They, along with their family members and friends, jammed the auditorium.
“I think all three of our guys were affected quite a bit by nerves,” said their coach Ian Lashley. “For example, Blake had trouble at 315 pounds. Not because he wasn’t strong enough to lift the weight, but because he was nervous with everybody there. An atmosphere like that always makes things a lot harder, especially when you’re doing that for the first time on a competitive level. After the first lift they kind of calmed down. Seth and Blake got red lighted on a couple of bench presses, but they got through it. They came back pretty strong and finished well.”
Lashley and his lifters credit the support of the fans, the other athletes and officials, for helping them make a good showing.
“The sportsmanship and the encouragement gives you a whole different perspective on competition,” Lashley said. “The athletes are encouraging one another. They put all they have into the lifts. They are so passionate about it. It is an awesome atmosphere. I’ve never experienced that in any other sporting event. There is just something magical about the Special Olympics — The athletes and how they act, how they carry themselves. Every athlete can learn something from Special Olympics’ athletes who are so hard-working and grateful to be out there.”
The Special Olympics provides an opportunity to compete, but it’s not just about winning and losing.
“They gave me a whole new outlook on my own coaching skills, experience and my competitive outlook,” said Lashley. “It makes me a better person and have a better perspective on competing in general. It’s a really awesome experience. It has made my coaching abilities better. It really challenged my coaching skills and has helped me to think outside the box.’
Hours of work at the Lashley training center and the opportunity to compete brought out the best in all three athletes.
“I enjoyed watching all of these different athletes and their amazing personalities,” Lashley said. “I’ve had the good fortune of working with three of the best personalities I’ve known in my entire life. Our guys got more confident in themselves as we worked together. They might be labeled as someone with ‘special needs,’ but that doesn’t mean they cannot achieve something if they put their mind to it.”