Special Olympians from the Valley return home after competitions

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The volleyball team took home its 14th winning title, led by Coach Jack Gruber

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Twenty-two Special Olympians returned to the Valley with some serious hardware after competing in the Summer Games in Columbus.

It was the eight-member volleyball team that took home the top spot after a tough fight.

“It was unbelievable! We had a great time,” said Rob Hewitt, one of the athletes on the team.

They won the first game, lost the second but finished strong in the third game.

“I was happy we won,” said Neil Gruber. “I have the best coach — my father. I love my father a lot.”

Neil’s father, Jack Gruber, has been coaching for more than a decade and led the team to its 14th winning title with a pep talk before the game.

“I told them to play their game, not to be fancy. Just get it over the net; play,” he said.

“He keeps us together and to stay focused and try and win the best games,” Hewitt said.

Jack Gruber said it’s the interaction with the athletes that makes him love it so much.

“It’s emotional. They do well, and for the most part, they listen and they take instruction,” he said.

The track team also took home two gold, nine silver and 12 bronze medals.

Fred Beshara, a track and field athlete, had a handful of those awards.

“A lot of times, people will say, ‘Well, are you fast? Are you any good?’ and I say, ‘Well, that’s for me to know and for you to find out,’” Beshara said.

It was the chance to compete that got the athletes cheering, and they say there’s a place for everyone.

The Service and Support Administrators’ volleyball team from Mahoning County has challenged the championship team to a game Monday night.

That will be at the Leonard Kirtz School at 5:30 p.m.

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