Athletes compete at Special Olympics Bowling event

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By Dana Delgado

For Liberty Hill Special Olympics, it was another milestone last weekend as a large delegation of athletes competed in their first ever bowling competition in Georgetown.

“It was such a successful bowling competition,” said Coach Christopher Klepper who has been piloting the development of the Liberty Hill program now in its second year. “I think all of our students had a great time. I think we have started something special for our students for years to come.”

The 19-member contingent was the largest group of athletes to ever participate in any Special Olympics event for Liberty Hill. Last school year, 15 athletes competed in track and field. Competing in the three-day event Nov. 6-8 at Mel’s Bowling Lanes in Georgetown were Ashley, Rachael, Lexi, Clayton and Codey from the high school and Andrew, Naomi, Nathan, Will, and Jacob from the Intermediate school. Representing the junior high were Bryan and Justin while Bill Burden Elementary students Eli, Stephen, and Ethan competed in the elementary division.

Klepper said he was also excited about Liberty Hill’s UNIFIED Team, which brings together athletes with and without disabilities on the same team. Members of the UNIFIED Team included Ashley Combs, Bryan Mapel, Justin Wood, Codey Post. The Coach said he hoped to have a UNIFIED Team for all Special Olympic sports.

“It’s been a process, but over the past eight weeks, we really polished our practices,” said Coach Klepper. “The bowling practices were something the students looked forward to each week. I have heard from a couple of parents how important, and how much their children look forward to them. It can be easy to forget and not realize the affect you have on children. The little things make a big difference.”

The Liberty Hill Special Olympics Coach said that preparation and practices for the competition involved extensive planning. Fortunately, a dedicated group of volunteers came through in supporting the program and the athletes.

“I appreciate all our volunteers. They were invaluable and nothing would have happened without them,” he said.

The blend of adult and student volunteers included Danny Pye, Kylie Tineo, Shirley Benavides, Irma Zamarripa, Cecilia Naylor, Codey Post, and Clayton Smeltzer. Also assisting were Rachael Bledsoe, Lexi Janssen, Justin Wood and parent Mary Mapel who provided snacks. The local Special Olympics program has also had the support of two businesses — Wiseman Family Practice and Big Tex Gym — which made donations that provided for the purchase of the team jerseys. Another local business, Two Brand It, designed and printed the team uniforms.

With the bowling event completed, Coach Klepper said the attention now turns to basketball. Volunteers, including coaches, are needed immediately so they can be trained and certified as required by Special Olympics guidelines.

Interested individuals should contact Klepper at Liberty Hill High School. Basketball practices are expected to begin in January.

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