White County athletes leave for Special Olympics USA National Games on Friday
by Andy Southard | June 28, 2018 10:51 am
In September, three White County athletes were selected to attend and compete in the Special Olympics USA National Games.
On June 30, these athletes will board a plane headed to Seattle, Washington, to compete. The athletes are Mary Bailey, Lexie Wilhite, and Calvin Jones. Joining them in this trip will also be White County High School teachers Nancy Benningfield and Jill McCulley, who will serve as coaches for the Tennessee Bocce ball team.
Bailey, who is no stranger to Special Olympics, has competed for over 10 years in various sports. She was selected to play Unified Bocce Ball. Bailey also loves snowboarding and has a few medals to her credit from the Tennessee Winter Games. She is an excellent help on local, state, and national events with her serving personality. Bailey is employed by White County High School as one of the beloved “lunch ladies.”
Her partner will be Lexie Wilhite. Wilhite has been involved with Special Olympics at the local and state levels for about two years. She was Bailey’s partner at state games, in May, and they brought home the gold medal. So being selected as Bailey’s partner was just the best outcome. Wilhite has the heart for Special Olympics, and she always brings her excellent attitude and a great smile to every event. White County High School has a superb peer/partner environment.
Jones was selected to attend national games as a powerlifter. Jones has been involved with Special Olympics for 30 years. He has attended one of the World Games, in 1991, and brought home medals for powerlifting. He also participated at the 2006 USA games, in Iowa. He attends state summer games every year, and gold is always the result. You may know Jones from Walmart. He is employed there and loves his job. If you run into to him, be sure to congratulate him, and you will probably get a big smile and maybe a muscle flex.
Benningfield and McCulley were selected to attend national games as Bocce Ball coaches. Benningfield and McCulley are no strangers to Special Olympics as they have both have been very instrumental in bringing light to Special Olympics in not only White County but also to the whole Upper Cumberland region. Benningfield serves as the area nine director for Special Olympics. She puts together all Special Olympics events for not only White County Athletes to compete in but also Cannon, Pickett, Van Buren, Warren, DeKalb, Clay, Cumberland, Macon, Fentress, Jackson, Putnam, Smith, and Overton counties.
The 2018 Special Olympics USA Games will be July 1-6, 2018, in Seattle, Washington. More than 4,000 athletes and coaches representing 50 state programs and the District of Columbia, along with the support of tens of thousands of volunteers and spectators, will compete in 14 Olympic-type team and individual sports. The USA Games showcase the abilities of athletes with intellectual disabilities and the impact of Special Olympics through world-class competition, inspirational experiences, and modeling inclusion for all while increasing awareness. The games will be broadcasted on ESPNGo or ESPN3 for everyone to see.
White County has represented well in local, state, and national events for many years. In 2010, Karl Appleman competed in tennis at National Games, in Nebraska, and was known as “Mr. T” on the courts. He also attended national games, in New Jersey, in 2014, for tennis and brought home more gold. Alex Zile and Tiffany Simmons played bocce, in Nebraska, in 2010, and Bailey won gold, in 2014, playing bocce, in New Jersey, for National Games.