Harford takes gold at Special Olympics USA; locals get medals

by Kate Evans

Morgan County resident Ashley Harford won two gold medals at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, Washington. Harford took medals in mini-javelin and shot put in her division. The Special Olympics USA Games took place from July 1 through July 6.

Harford’s gold medal score in mini-javelin (Turbo Jav) was 9.37 meters and her gold medal score in shot put was 5.07 meters. A Turbo Jav is smaller but uses the same principle as a mini-javelin.   Harford also came in seventh place in her

Ashley Harford (center) is congratulated on July 10 by two-time basketball Olympian Vicky Bullet, of Martinsburg.

division for the 100 meter run.

Harford, 27, graduated from Berkeley Springs High School in 2009. She is the daughter of Mark and Ginny Harford of Berkeley Springs. Ginny Harford is a former Morgan County Schools head nurse and Widmyer Elementary nurse.

Ginny Harford said her daughter did bowling and other events as part of Morgan County Special Olympics when she was in middle school. She transferred to the Berkeley County Special Olympics program six or seven years ago.

In the Berkeley County program, Ashley has done basketball, cheerleading, shot put, Turbo Jav, bowling, volleyball and snowboarding and competed at the state level. At most state events she’s returned with medals and many of them have been gold, her mom said. Turbo Jav and cheerleading are two of Ashley’s favorite sports.

Ginny Harford said they had a great time and gorgeous 70-degree weather in Seattle. The competition was fierce — it’s a whole other level at the national competitions, she noted. They were excited that all the athletes did so well.

Ashley kept telling everyone before she left to wish her luck and that she was going for the gold, Harford said.

“It was a wonderful opportunity for her and we’re so proud of her accomplishments,” Harford said of her daughter.

Other medalists

Harford’s Berkeley County teammates Peggy Molnar, Kyle Bender and Austin Anders also received medals in their divisions at the Special Olympics USA Games.

Peggy Molnar, 16, won a bronze medal for shot put and placed fifth in the 100 meter run and sixth in mini-javelin. (Turbo Jav)   Molnar is the daughter of Ginnie Molnar, Widmyer Elementary Assistant Principal and Berkeley County Special Olympics coach.

Austin Anders, 20, received a gold medal for mini-javelin (Turbo Jav) and a silver medal for shot put and took seventh place in the 100 meter run.

Kyle Bender, 23, won a bronze medal for mini-javelin. (Turbo Jav) He also placed sixth in shot put and was a 100 meter run participant.

Team West Virginia

Team West Virginia had 16 athletes that participated in the national games. All came home with medals and ribbons for their events, Molnar said.

West Virginia had bowling, bocce and swim teams and eight athletes that did track and field athletics events.

Other Special Olympics USA events included basketball, flag football, golf, gymnastics, power lifting, soccer, tennis and volleyball. All sporting events were free and open to the public.

Local cheerleaders

Southern Morgan County resident and nurse Leah (Painter) Chan was in Seattle on a work contract at the University of Washington Medical Center during the Special Olympics.

Chan and her husband Kheng Chan were enjoying the games as spectators and learned there was a participant from Berkeley Springs and others from West Virginia.

The Chans went to the Athletics Field on Wednesday to cheer on the West Virginia team and got to meet Harford and   teammates, Coach Molnar and other athletes from West Virginia.

“It was fantastic to be in the stands making some noise for our local representatives. We were proud of them. They had awesome performances. All of our locals medaled. And we saw Ashley win gold. How cool!,” Leah Chan said.

It was a good trip for the Eastern Panhandle team and a great opportunity for the kids to travel, Ginnie Molnar said. During their stay, they enjoyed an old-fashioned Fourth of July picnic, a dance party and closing ceremonies from where they could see the Space Needle and the skyline. They also walked the town a little.

One highlight for Ashley and Peggy was stopping at Molly Moon’s Ice Cream Parlor for their phenomenal homemade ice cream, she said.

Ginnie Molnar said that Special Olympics give special needs individuals the chance to be included in sports whether they’re eight years old or age 80. Participating in the national games also gave them the chance to make friends with others from around the United States.

Ginny Harford said they bonded with other athletes and families from other states, heard many stories and brought home a lot of great memories.

“We also made friends with people from our own community,” she said, speaking of the Chans.

A celebration to congratulate and welcome home double gold winner Ashley Harford took place Tuesday evening in Berkeley Springs.