Healthpark hosts Special Olympics regional meet

Nearly 100 athletes from throughout Kentucky competed in the 2nd Annual Special Olympics Regional Swim Meet Saturday morning at the Owensboro Health Healthpark, where athletes and spectators filled the natatorium with excitement, jubilation and, more than anything, unbridled support.

In all, 96 swimmers from seven teams — including 23 from the Owensboro-Daviess County Water Rockets — were registered to participate. As one of two qualifying events in the state, top performers in the Southwest regional meet will advance to the Brad Harkleroad Memorial State Swim Meet on May 17-18 in Louisville.

“It was fantastic,” said Kim Johnson, local coordinator for Daviess County Special Olympics. “Half of the teams in Kentucky were here competing in the Owensboro event, and it was a great day.

“We love it. Our local fans can come and cheer on our athletes, and our athletes like to have a fan base. They like their fans to come and cheer them on, so it’s a great opportunity for our local athletes.”

The inaugural 2023 meet in Owensboro featured a little more than 70 swimmers, and after seeing the event’s growth this year, expectations are for it to only continuing getting bigger in the future.

“I think it was wonderful,” said Holly Vincent, director of sports and competition for Special Olympics Kentucky. “We had a larger event than we’ve had here in the past, and we had plenty of volunteers that really stepped up and made this event run smoothly. Honestly, I couldn’t be any happier than how it went today.

“Owensboro as a city and Daviess County as a whole have been wonderful, with open arms. That’s been really nice, which is why you’ll see a lot more Special Olympics events happening in Owensboro and the surrounding area — because we do have the community support here, and our athletes want to go where they’re supported. We’re going to continue to come here.”

Johnson hopes that holding more competitions locally will also increase participation and awareness.

“We just want to keep growing,” she said. “When we move events to different parts of the state, we’re hoping we’re going to build some more interest. People really see that Special Olympics is a year-round sports training competition. We have something going on every week of the year.”

In September, Owensboro will host the Special Olympics Kentucky State Softball Tournament at Jack C. Fisher Park for the first time in 15 years.

“One of the things that is amazing about having things here in Owensboro is the community support,” Johnson said. “Today, we had Independence Bank volunteering, Benji DeWitt and his insurance company, the entire staff was here volunteering, and we had Serve the Boro here. The volunteer support is tremendous in our area, and we absolutely could not do it without volunteers.”

For more information on Special Olympics Kentucky or how to volunteer, visit