Natalie Mills

Natalie Mills, of Special Olympics Virginia (right), celebrates winning the gold medal in the Novice Slalom event, next to silver medalist Jack Connell, of Montgomery County.

CHAMPION – Natalie Mills couldn’t control herself.

Hearing her name announced for her second gold medal on Tuesday, the Special Olympics athlete screamed and jumped for joy, high-fiving the medal presenter.

She took her time atop the medal award podium in Seven Springs Mountain Resort grand ballroom, striking a few poses for the cheering crowd and admiring photographers.

Competing with the Special Olympics Virginia contingent, Mills was among more than 350 athletes who participated this week in Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s annual Winter Games.

The games wrapped up two days of competition Tuesday with awards presentations and closing ceremony.

“I’m pretty excited,” Mills said after receiving her medals.

The 29-year-old has been to the games before, but was never as successful. In addition to her gold medals in the slalom and giant slalom, she took home silver in the super giant slalom.

“It’s the first time I medaled in all three,” she said. “I never missed a gate.”

Charles Trump, 33, of Latrobe, said he learned he’s a mudder.

He won two medals in snowshoeing, despite less-than-optimum conditions on the course.

“There was nothing but mud on that trail,” Trump said.

Trump has been snowshoeing for about seven years, transitioning from cross-country skiing when that sport was phased out of the state winter games.

He said it’s a highlight of his year and that he has made a few friends at the games.

“I love it,” he said. “I like time with the athletes that come and the great coaches.”

Joe Nickle, 58, of Jeannette, got involved with Special Olympics after several years of watching his son compete in the summer games at Penn State.

“They asked why don’t you just go help, so I got my clearances and I was assistant swimming coach,” he recalled.

Nickle has worked with Special Olympians in bocce ball and track and field in the summer. He is Westmoreland County contingent’s assistant Alpine skiing coach.

Zack Frantz, 31, of Belle Vernon, has been skiing for about 15 years and took three gold medals on Tuesday.

“I almost went down, but recovered and finished,” he said.

Frantz also enjoys basketball and track and field in the summer.

Jeliel Navarro, 18, of Harrisburg, spent two hours in a Ski Patrol hut Tuesday after falling during the super giant slalom competition.

He still made it to the final awards ceremony, however, and received his two gold medals while supporting himself with crutches.

Navarro said he likes “everything” about Special Olympics, especially “talking to nice people.”

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.

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