The Fremont High School Unified Bowling Team had an impressive showing Monday at the Nebraska State Athletic Association’s state tournament held inside of Lincoln’s Sun Valley Lanes.
To pave their way to state, the team, comprised of 22 FHS ninth through 12th graders, had to win their district meet which was held Nov. 27 at 30 Bowl in Fremont. Competing against seven area schools – comprised of all different state classes – the Tigers rolled to a first-place finish.
“Terry Synovec is owner of the 30 Bowl and he and his crew were awesome with hosting the meet,” Head Coach Lindsey Chicoine said during a Thursday interview with the Tribune. “They have provided us with shoes, and clothing and a place to let us practice. They have helped us with anything we’ve needed. It’s been a great partnership between us and the community.”
At Monday’s State meet, the Tigers competed against eight other schools, coming from numerous places, including Cambride, Alliance and West Point. After winning a bracket-seeding round, the Tigers went on to beat Cambridge three games to none in a best 3-out-of-5 format.
Once moving into the final four, Fremont fell to Alliance in four games after winning the first. While Chicoine said she wasn’t told officially what her team placed, she confidently said she feels they placed third in the state.
“Just because of how we were seeded I would definitely say we placed third,” she said.
Unified Sports is an inclusive activities program that combines an approximately equal number of individuals with intellectual disabilities, and those without intellectual disabilities, on an athletic team for competition and inclusive activities that foster an environment for social inclusion.
Following a vote of approval from the roughly 300 schools that are NSAA members during the 2013-2014 school year, the process began to find a way to make Unified Sports available in high schools across the state.
During the 2016-2017 school year, bowling was the first Unified Sport implemented throughout the state of Nebraska.
The season started in mid-October and concluded following Monday’s State Tournament meet. A maximum of six competitions were allowed to be held over the course of the season.
Unified Bowling is comprised of five people – three competing and two substitutions. The three competing students are made up of at least one athlete with an intellectual disability and two non-intellectually disabled athletes, referred to as partners.
This year, Fremont had two Unified Bowling squads.
Teams participating in Unified Bowling could be made up of girls, boys or co-ed, and all teams around the state competed under one “class” – not by the current class breakdown of other NSAA activities.
An accredited school activity by the NSAA, those participating in Unified Bowling can receive letters, just like with any other sport. Interestingly enough, partners competing in fall and winter sports were still allowed to be part of the team; which this year was comprised of five athletes and 17 partners.
Five partners participated in some sort of fall or winter sport, Chicoine added.
Chicoine, who served as the Unified Bowling coach for the past two years, works as a basic skills instructor at Johnson Crossing Academic Center and has a lengthy history of working with area Special Olympics.
When she learned the position was opening, she jumped at the opportunity.
“I knew it would be an awesome way to make those connections between special education and general education students,” she said. “Our big mission statement is to promote interaction, build leadership, acceptance and understanding for those with differences in our community.
Unified Bowling has been a huge benefit to both the athletes and the partners who compete.
“It gives them the opportunity to interact with new people outside of school, and to make those connections and build relationships that will carry over to during-school hours,” Chicoine. “And that is what we look at as the big picture. We want to build these relationships and have them carry over into every-day friendships.”