Ross resident bests challenges, both on and off field of play
By Dona S. Dreeland
Published: Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
With the ceramic dogs, Toby jugs, dolls and Princess Di memorabilia on display, the Lardin home in Ross Township is full of collections.
But Steve Lardin, 46, has a collection greater than those of his parents. His bedroom is a showcase of an athlete's pride. Displayed on walls, shelves and even above the door are the 250 Special Olympics medals and trophies he has earned since he began competing decades ago. The medallions hang on ribbons of every color of the rainbow, and they represent diverse sports.
Lardin is quick to name them — kayaking on the river, softball, soccer, powerlifting, team handball and swimming, floor hockey, bowling and bocce. In May, he earned his most recent gold medal with Renee Kramer of Pittsburgh in bocce at the Allegheny County Special Olympics Summer Games, held at Baldwin High School in Baldwin Borough.
His trophies show his prowess in bowling, basketball and darts.
“I love every one of the sports,” said a beaming Lardin.
His athletics began with a simple announcement at age 8: “I'm gonna be in the Olympics,” he said as a student at the former Cumberland Hills School in McCandless.
His father, Frank, 82, remembers that day. Soon, he and his son were on the road as part of the North Star Specials. Frank served as a bus chaperone for more than 30 years and as site coordinator for the group.
“Today, there are 4,000 ‘Specials' in Allegheny County,” his father said. “We're the second-largest group in the state. Pennsylvania is the most active in the nation.”
Born with Down syndrome, Lardin went home with his mother, Beverly, to two older brothers. Later, another brother joined the family. There was lots of care to go around.
“His brothers used to spoil him,” his mother said.
Lardin graduated from North Hills Senior High School in Ross.
His first competitive sport was the 50-yard dash when he was 8.
“Steve was winning,” his father explained. “Then, he stopped to help pick up his friend who had fallen. He placed fourth or fifth. When they pinned a ribbon on his chest, Steve said, ‘I don't want that. I want a necklace.'”
He has been winning ever since and traveling to regional competitions.
In 2003, Lardin won the Male Athlete of the Year for Pennsylvania. He received an engraved silver bowl at a Special Olympics banquet in Harrisburg.
“He jumped 4 feet when he got the trophy,” his father said. “He competed in 13 sports.”
Coaching is the key to any Special Olympics athlete's success.
Linda Gitzen coaches bocce and has been with the organization for 26 years. The No. 1 skill in bocce, she said, is strategy. Players consider their best move, whether to hit the “jack,” bowl their ball closest to it or knock an opponent's ball away. The team closest to the jack scores a point.
Gitzen, of Ross Township, considers Lardin “an excellent athlete.”
On and off the field, “Steve is a wonderful, caring person and extremely polite. It overwhelms you,” she said, describing how he holds doors open and helps people out of cars.
“He tries his best in everything he does and helps his teammates.”
When Lardin isn't swimming, shooting hoops or playing bocce — his maternal grandfather was a national champion of bowling on the green in England — he's an at-home kind of a guy.
He takes care of his dog, Toto; loves to cook and clean; and cares for his mother, who just turned 81. He might even be volunteering.
“He won't miss the turkey bingo with the North Star group at the West View fire hall,” his father said.
The best part of Special Olympics is the friendships, Lardin said.
“I meet new friends and see old friends from years ago,” he said.
Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Vincentian Academy looks at expansion plans
- Absenteeism of North Hills School Board member causes concern
- Photo Gallery: Marshall Township Easter egg hunt
- Hillside repairs to cost $35K more than expected
- Six NA students finalists in Musical Kids competition
- Pine-Richland officials look to improve curriculum consistency
- All that Jazz Shaler North Hills Library hosting concert
- Pine taking steps to alleviate traffic at busy intersection
- Hampton considers adding guidance counselor at high school
- Shaler OKs green overlay district to promote riverfront
- Unused West View land to become green solution for stormwater runoff