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Twelve champion teams who won their regional championship attended the 2019 Unified Sports Indoor Bocce Championship after winning in their region. Each team represented their high schools unified bocce team, where students with and without intellectual disabilities train and compete on the same team. Twelve different high schools from twelve different counties were represented:
This was the fifth year that Special Olympics PA held the Unified Sports Indoor Bocce Championship in conjunction with the PIAA Boy’s and Girl’s state basketball championship. Special Olympics PA – Philadelphia sent a team from Parkway West, who had two teams win the competitive division. After an in-school face-off, Parkway West sent their first team to represent Philadelphia and their school. On Wednesday, March 20, 2019, Parkway West’s first team left in the early morning to head out to Northern High School in Dillsburg, PA for qualifying rounds. Only eight teams would advance to the finals the next day at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA prior to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Boy’s and Girl’s state basketball championships. The Championship took place from 8:30 am – 11:00 am; and, awards were presented during halftime of the PIAA Basketball game from 12:30 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.
At the qualifying rounds, each team played two matches and after the round-robin style play, the top eight advanced to the championship rounds. Parkway West was excited to be there and compete at the state level. For most of the team, it was their first sporting experience outside of the City of Brotherly Love. All of the students were soaking in the experience and staying true to how they got there – by working together and focusing on having fun. Between each set, one of the assistant coaches high-fived each player to keep them going from their early morning wake-up. At the end of the day, Parkway West ended up losing both of their matches, so they would not continue on to the Championship round the next day. Although they lost, both games were close and they were very proud of themselves for coming out of the strongest bracket in their region.
Congratulations to Bald Eagle Area High School from Centre County who were the state champions.
Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s Unified Champion Schools program is aimed at promoting social inclusion through intentionally planned and implemented activities affecting systems-wide change. With sports as the foundation, Unified Champion Schools follow a three-component model: Interscholastic Unified Sports, Youth Leadership and Advocacy, and Whole School Engagement. Interscholastic Unified Sports is a fully-inclusive co-ed high school sports program that brings together a proportional number of students with and without disabilities on teams for training and competition. Whereas, youth leadership, advocacy, and whole-school engagement promote school climates where students with disabilities feel welcome and are routinely included in, and feel a part of, all activities, opportunities, and functions.
Unified Sports® is the one Special Olympics program that helps schools fulfill the requirements of the Department of Education guidance letter reminding schools of the federal law (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) protecting the rights of all students with disabilities to have equal access to athletic activities.