‘Shining moment for Shelton:’ SHS Unified athletes earn hardware at Special Olympics USA

Photo of Brian Gioiele

SHELTON — The high school’s Unified Sports program has long been recognized as one of the best in the state — now it’s one of the best in the nation.

Shelton High’s Unified track and field team competed in the Special Olympics USA games in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month as part of Team CT, earning four gold medals, two silver and two bronze.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we were happy to be included,” said Karen Devonshuk, who coaches the team alongside Mike Gambardella. “They had a great time, and even brought home some hardware.”

The Board of Education honored the athletes and coaches at its meeting Wednesday.

“We’re so proud of you,” Superintendent Ken Saranich said to the coaches and athletes present at the meeting. “This is a shining moment for Shelton.”

Athletes Josiah Kellogg, Tyler Smith, Kelly Stanley, and Danielle Turcotte — along with their partners Matt Darak, Sophia Fabian, Ciara Foley and Jason Loh — competed as the track and field component of the CT Team. Simsbury was chosen to compete in Unified basketball.

Stanley won gold in the 100-meter run and women’s shot put. Turcotte also won gold in the shot put, and Kellogg topped the field in the running long jump.

Loh won silver in the 200 meters, while Darak earned silver in the running long jump.

Fabian won bronze in the shot put.

The men’s 4x100 meter team of Loh, Kellogg, Darak and Smith won the bronze, while the women’s 4x100 team of Foley, Turcotte, Fabian and Stanley placed fourth overall in their event.

Devonshuk said the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games is the first games to have Unified track and field as part of the competition.

Devonshuk said Shelton High’s Unified Track and Field team was chosen by CIAC Unified Sports to compete in Orlando based on a strong record of having a quality program that has been actively involved in CT Unified Sports activities over the years.

“Shelton has always been very competitive in unified sports,” she said, “So our being chosen was a way for CIAC to reward a quality program while being able to put the best foot forward to represent the best that Connecticut has to offer.”

CIAC required that Shelton High have a team of four athletes (two male, two female), four partners (two male, two female), and two coaches competing in three events.

The boys competed in running long jump, 200-meter run, and the 4x100-meter relay. The girls competed in the shot put, 100-meter run, and the 4x100 relay.

Athletes and partners were chosen by the unified sports coaches based on age (had to be 16 by June 1, 2022), participation on SHS unified teams, strong academic standing, and dedication and commitment to the team.

Devonshuk said the athletes enjoyed the experience.

“Competitions were held every day at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, but while at the games, the kids had time to participate in the seven-station Healthy Athletes program,” she said. “We also managed to fit in some Disney fun.”

The athletes got to spend the evening of June 9 at Animal Kingdom. And after the awards ceremony the morning of June 11, the athletes spent the remainder of the day in the Magic Kingdon.

“It was such an honor for our school to be chosen as one of two teams to represent Connecticut at the USA games,” Shelton High Principal Kathy Riddle said. “We are so proud of our athletes and coaches. This was such an incredible experience for all involved.”