INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference and Special Olympics Indiana partnered to host the fifth-annual Unified Sports Bowling Championship, Sunday, April 7 at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis. The occasion continued the conference's and NCAA Division III's partnership with Special Olympics.
During the event, over 125 athletes from Special Olympics chapters in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky and student-athletes from HCAC member institutions teamed up in an effort to bring home the fifth HCAC Unified Bowling Championship.
"The Unified Bowling Championship is one of the most impactful programs sponsored by the HCAC," stated HCAC Commissioner Maureen Harty. "This event provides the Special Olympians the opportunity to compete in the uniform of an HCAC institution alongside their HCAC student-athlete teammates. This inclusive event brings two groups together that may not normally interact and allows them to bond over a common love of sport. Our student-athletes learn to embrace the abilities of those with special needs and form new friendships. It truly is a rewarding experience for all involved."
Unified is a term that reflects athletes with intellectual disabilities and without intellectual disabilities competing together on a team. Each team had four total members, two with intellectual disabilities and two without intellectual disabilities, with each HCAC member institution sponsoring multiple teams at the event.
This season, The Mount's Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) sponsored 12 athletes, and 3 teams at the event. Representing The Mount were Will Scaggs (Batavia, Ohio/Batavia), Isaiah Trimble (New Carlisle, Ohio/Tecumseh), Kevin McClanahan (Madeira, Ohio/Madeira), Zack Storc (Columbus, Ohio/Bishop Watterson), Ben Holt (Cincinnati, Ohio/Roger Bacon) and Riley Brunner (Lawrenceburg, Ohio/Lawrenceburg). The Lions were joined by six Special Olympic athletes from the Hamilton County area Ken Schmid, Jason Morency, Nathan Michelson, Aaron Heisel, Jessica Halusek and Austin Ross.
Mount St. Joseph was able to take home the championship this year, for the second time in school history.
Brunner who is a senior has been a part of this event every year of her college career had this to say about the experience, "It was an absolute blast to pair up with the Special Olympians to compete in this event again". She added, "Hearing Mount St. Joseph called as the champion of the event was a very special moment for all off us."
Two Mount St. Joseph student-athletes were recognized as All-HCAC for their performances, Will Scaggs (732) and Zack Storc (711). Joining them on the All-HCAC team representing the Special Olympic athletes was Jason Morency (683).
"Participating in the HCAC Unified Bowling Tournament was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had in my life" said Skaggs a freshman on the Mount's football team. "Learning from the Special Olympic athletes themselves that playing with us made them so happy, that was my favorite part of the entire tournament" he added.
Storc echoed the sentiment of Skaggs, "Seeing how much joy this event brought to the Special Olympians and all the athletes from the HCAC is something unforgettable. I could not be prouder to have been a part of this event. It is such an amazing feeling to share the championship with such an outstanding group of people, a feeling I will cherish forever."