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HEISER: Olympic stories York County fans should follow

Steve Heiser
505-5446/@ydsports
  • The U.S. women's field hockey team trains at Spooky Nook Sports Complex in Lancaster County.
  • Grenada's Oreoluwa Cherebin, who has trained at York YMCA, will compete in the 100 butterfly.
  • Dover grad Cody Shoemaker will act as a de facto manager for U.S. wrestler J'Den Cox in Rio.

The Rio Olympics are almost here.

The action starts Wednesday and Thursday with a few soccer games.

The U.S. field hockey team has found a home at the Spooky Nook Sports Complex in Lancaster County.

The Opening Ceremonies are slated for Friday.

And the action really picks up starting on Saturday.

By now, you almost surely know that we have our very own York County Olympian in Spring Grove High School graduate Hali Flickinger, who will compete in the 200-meter butterfly next week.

We've already done a number of stories on the former York YMCA swimmer and there's more to come in the next few days.

But Flickinger's run at a medal isn't the only story of regional interest at the 2016 Summer Games.

In fact, there are several stories that local folks should keep an eye on.

Here's a look at three of them.

U.S. women's field hockey: The United States women's field hockey team is based out of the Spooky Nook Sports Complex in Manheim, Lancaster County, which is a little more than 15 miles from the York County border.

The U.S. women's field hockey team is also packed with Pennsylvania talent, including three athletes who graduated from District 3 high schools — Alyssa Manley of Warwick (Lancaster County), Jill Witmer of Penn Manor (Lancaster County) and Jaclyn Briggs of Conrad Weiser (Berks County).

The American women enter the Olympics ranked fifth in the world, but they've been playing well of late, having recently moved up two spots in the rankings from seventh. If that trend continues, a medal is a definite possibility. The Associated Press is predicting a bronze medal.

The Americans' first match is Saturday vs. Argentina.

Other York YMCA swimmer: Yes, Flickinger is getting the bulk of the swimming coverage in these parts, and rightfully so.

But another York YMCA swimmer will also compete in the Rio Games.

Oreoluwa Cherebin also swims for the local club and will represent Grenada, which is a tiny nation in the Caribbean featuring about 100,000 people.

Cherebin, who has lived with an aunt and uncle in the York Suburban School District while training at the YMCA, is expected to compete in the 100-meter butterfly. She will be one of just two swimmers from Grenada in Rio.

Unlike Flickinger, Cherebin is not expected to advance out of the preliminary-round action on Saturday. Her career-best time is 1 minute, 8.82 seconds. The best time in the world this year is 55.68 seconds.

Wrestler with Dover ties: There aren't any York County wrestlers on the U.S. Olympic team, but there is one American wrestler with a deep bond to a York County man.

J'Den Cox has excelled for the University of Missouri, winning the NCAA Division I title this past year at 197 pounds. He then made a surprising run to earn an Olympic berth in the 86-kilogram (189-pound) division.

The de facto manager for Cox and his family in Rio will be Dover High School graduate Cody Shoemaker.

Shoemaker is the director of operations for the Missouri wrestling program and he and Cox have become fast friends.

Perfect storm of events sends Dover grad to Olympics

Shoemaker is also fluent in Portuguese, which is the dominant language in Brazil. Shoemaker learned Portuguese while serving a two-year mission in the South American country.

Cox isn't expected to earn a gold medal, but he was also a long shot to make the Olympics at all, and he overcame those odds, so it may be unwise to count him out.

The Associated Press is picking him to win bronze.

Cox doesn't wrestle until Saturday, Aug. 20.

Concerns: The Rio Games, of course, have been beset by concerns over pollution, inadequate facilities and security, among many others.

Hopefully, those concerns won't overshadow the actual competition.

Because there a few stories of regional interest that should be well worth watching over the coming weeks.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.