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Swim meet honors coach’s memory

WARREN — While swimmers from seven counties competed in various swim events at the Warren Harding High School Natatorium last weekend, organizers said the Special Olympics event honored the memory of a local woman who volunteered as a coach for her community.

The 16th annual Kelly Jo Carlson Memorial Swim Meet was held for local Special Olympics participants to earn points at a regional swim event. The event is hosted by Fairhaven Special Olympics as well as by family and friends of Carlson.

Paul and Lois Carlson of Bazetta, parents of Kelly Jo Carlson, said swimmers from Tuscarawas County competed for the first time this year in addition to participants from Ashtabula, Columbiana, Mahoning, Portage, Stark, Summit and Trumbull counties. About 100 swimmers in total competed.

The Carlsons said each year they have former classmates and friends of their daughter volunteer at the event.

Paul Carlson said their daughter enjoyed coaching and volunteering for Special Olympics.

“She was a competitive swimmer and was a volunteer for Special Olympics. When she passed away 16 years ago, we asked that contributions go to the Fairhaven program. The response was overwhelming. We decided to do something in her name. When we spoke to Fairhaven officials, they said they would like to have a regional swim meet but didn’t have a location,” he said.

The first swim meet was held at Youngstown State University before it was moved to Harding High School.

“Both places were great facilities for this,” he said.

Paul Carlson said those who qualify at the regional events advance to other regional events and then state meet in Columbus.

One of the swim teams from Fairhaven School was among the first-place finishers. The men’s 25- meter relay took the gold.

Paul Colla of Mineral Ridge said the team does a lot of practicing at the swimming pool at Fairhaven.

Swimmer Sean Roberts of Niles said it was exciting for the team to place first.

Edward Stark, superintendent for Trumbull County Board of Developmental Disabilities, said the school brought 30 swimmers.

“We are very proud of them. They work hard and practice a lot,” Stark said.

Angela Verostko, a coach at Fairhaven, said the teams include teenagers and adults. She said there are other regional events planned in December and January.

Lois Carlson said the event is for children and young adults.

“Several of the swimmers came up to us and thanked us for this event,” she said.

Adia Bury, 22, of Niles said she had won both first- and second-place medals in women’s relays. She said she has been a swimmer since elementary school.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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