Area athletes and coaches contributed to a successful run for Team Indiana flag football in the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games in New Jersey from June 14 to 21.

Team Indiana’s flag football squad finished as runner-up, earning a second-place medal at the football venue at Lawrenceville, New Jersey. After winning three straight games, then losing to Louisiana by 14 points, the team came back to defeat Delaware 39-12 to secure the silver medal.

The team is composed of both athletes and unified partners — the inclusion of those without developmental disabilities — from Northwest Indiana. Athlete Robert Gray, of Valparaiso, said, “The whole week has been moving and enjoyable. I have seen camaraderie and learned teamwork with Team Indiana.”

Unified Partner Tim Hillers, of Rensselaer, called his time with the Special Olympians a rewarding experience.

“I’ve enjoyed working with the athletes,” Hillers said. “They come here for fun and high-fives, along with the competition.”

Brent Bowgren, of Valparaiso, is a Special Olympics athlete who took his participation in the organization to the next level by becoming a member of the Athlete Leadership Program. Through this program, he completed training to be a coach. He was named to lead the bocce team.

Bowgren was the first Special Olympics Indiana athlete to participate on a national level in a coaching role.

“Having an athlete serve as a coach in the USA Games was extremely exciting, encouraging and motivating to all 11,000 athletes in Indiana and those across the U.S.,” said Jeff Mohler, head of delegation for Team Indiana. “He did great work with this bocce team.”

All members of Team Indiana were selected based on performance in state competition. The squad competed in aquatics, basketball, bocce, bowling, cycling, flag football, golf, powerlifting and track and field, bringing home 36 gold medals, 16 silver medals, 15 bronze medals, five fourth-place ribbons, seven fifth-place ribbons, five sixth-place ribbons, five seventh-place ribbons, three eighth-place ribbons and four participation ribbons.

Special Olympics USA Games are played every four years with different sites considered for each run.