By Lori Draz
On October 23, nearly 1,000 people packed the Monmouth County Library headquarters in Manalapan for the Monmouth County Library’s Salute to the Olympians. Olympic bronze medalist Monica Aksamit, athlete Robby Andrews, and Paralympic bronze medalist Robert Griswold were honored and then signed autographs for the enthusiastic crowd while Tim McLoone and the Shirleys performed the hits of Carole King, B.B. King, Ben E. King, and Elvis “the King” Presley. There were also demonstrations and information on gymnastics presented by professionals from the Monmouth Gymnastics Academy of Morganville, where 2016 Olympic silver medalist Laurie Hernandez trains. Also attending the event was 1968 Olympic javelin world record holder Barbara Freidrich.
Renee B. Swartz, chairperson of the Monmouth County Library Commission, opened the ceremonies by saying, “This might be the only county in all of the United States that can boast of six athletes with Olympic ties of this magnitude. Though small, Monmouth County showed the world the talent, strength, determination, and human spirit that are so evident right here. I am so delighted to see so many of you here today to show your appreciation.” The six area athletes are Monica Aksamit, Robby Andrews, Robert Griswold, Lauren Zoe “Laurie” Hernandez, Connor Jaeger, and Ajee Wilson. Mayors of their respective communities joined Ms. Swartz and Library Commissioners James S. Gray and Donald W. Burden, who is also mayor of Shrewsbury, in making the presentations. Each of the athletes received a resolution adopted by the commission and plaques highlighting their individual talents.
Griswold, of Freehold Township, earned a bronze medal in the 100 meter back stroke in the Paralympics and holds several world records and world championships prior to this year’s Olympics. He said, “At times, I would like to break my medal into thousands of pieces and give one to everyone who has helped me along the way and helped me to get to this place.”
Aksamit earned her bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics in the Women’s Saber Fencing Team. She has taught fencing at Brookdale Community College and is currently the fencing instructor at St. John Vianney in Holmdel. She earned a silver medal in the 2008 Junior World Championships and a team gold medal and individual bronze the following year in the Pan American Championships. She was also the recipient of two NCAA Team championships while at Penn State.
Andrews made a strong performance in the Track and Field 1500 meter event and told the appreciative crowd, “I’ll be back for the 2020 Olympics.”
For information on the many diverse and exciting Monmouth County Library programs, visit www.monmouthcountylib.org.