WILKES-BARRE — Tracey Tribendis is familiar with being first.
In 1994, she was the first U.S. athlete to win a gold medal in the World Games Special Olympics in New Haven, Connecticut.
And in 2018, she became the first special-needs individual to be inducted into the Luzerne County Sports Hall of Fame and the Pennsylvania Special Olympics Hall of Fame.
Tracey’s dad, Wyoming Valley West High School legendary swimming coach Frank Tribendis, was inducted into the Luzerne County Sports Hall in 2005 and he was there to see it when his daughter was inducted.
Tracey and 14 others were honored recently at the 34th annual Joseph DeSimone Memorial Banquet for the Luzerne County Sports Hall of Fame — John Louis Popple Chapter.
Tracey started competing at age 8 in swimming, long-distance running and bowling. A graduate of E.L. Meyers High School, Tracey was selected to be part of Team USA at the 1994 World Games Special Olympics.
While competing there, she won a gold medal in the 400-meter freestyle and she also won several other medals. She was interviewed by U.S. Olympic champion swimmer John Naber on ESPN.
Tracey, who works at Cracker Barrel, continues to compete in long-distance running and win medals. She also participates in basketball training and attends an art studio.
In 2007, she was inducted into the Pennsylvania Special Olympics Hall of Fame.
“In September, we will be opening our Hall of Fame display at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport in conjunction with the Northeastern (Scranton) Chapter of the Pa. State Hall of Fame,” said James T. Martin, president of the county chapter. “This year’s 2018 inductees along with our three state inductees will be the first exhibit. Some 330,000 visitors will pass by this display each year.”
Martin said the three 2018 State Hall of Fame inductees are Berwick’s George Curry, Karen Klassner and Jack Henzes. They be inducted at the state banquet in November at The Woodlands Inn, Plains Township.
In other Hall news:
• Winners of the $500 Student/Athlete Scholarship were: Matthew Wright, Wyoming Area; Abigail Norwillo, Pittston Area; and Autumn Grey, Tunkhannock.
• Eric Mahler, Esq., received the 2018 Sam Falcone Award for Community Service.
• Rob Neyhard received the 2018 Media Award.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.