Unified bowling: 'One of the greatest moments of my life'

All six LPS high schools recently finished another successful season of unified bowling, capped off by a second-place trophy at state for Lincoln High School and an award-worthy musical performance at the Lincoln Southwest team banquet.

Unified sports pair students with disabilities (athletes) and without (partners) who compete together. At LPS, 47 athletes competed alongside 69 partners in bowling this season.

The Lincoln High team of athletes Dylan Hartshorn and Abigail Parish, along with partners Mason Pierce, Brynna Madison and Dylan McLaughlan, finished second at the Nebraska School Activities Association state championship, held Dec. 4 at Sun Valley Lanes in Lincoln.

“My team members  are so supportive of each other during the school day and on the lanes,” said Lisa Thiessen, the Lincoln High coach and a teacher with the district’s Vocational Opportunity in Community Experience program. “They have become friends over the course of the six weeks.”

The Lincoln Southwest team held its season-ending banquet on Dec. 6. One of the team’s coaches, English teacher Brandi Benson, praised the athletes and partners.

“You guys make my job easy. You make my job fun. And all you do is be yourselves,” she said. “Every single one of you played a huge part on the team this year. You're all just unbelievable.”

One of the athletes, Elissa Fuelberth, said she will always treasure her experience with the team. “I love spending time with my unified bowling friends. You are all so amazing and I have really enjoyed bowling with all of you. All of us have learned a lot. Not only about bowling, but also about each other.”

One of the partners, AJ Lacy, thanked Benson and the team’s other coach, School Resource Officer J. Fisher, for the opportunity to be part of such a special experience.

“I just want to say that unified bowling is probably the greatest thing I've ever done at Southwest. I play softball and basketball, and this has been one of the greatest moments of my life the past two years,” Lacy said.

At the end of the banquet, partner McKenzie Steiner performed a song she wrote that incorporates the Special Olympics pledge. Team members joined Steiner at the front of the room and sang along.

“So let me in, and if I cannot win,

Then let me be brave in the attempt.

I know it might be hard sometimes,

But that don’t mean I give in.

With all the joy and love that brings us together,

When it’s all said and done,

I’ve already won.”

music written by McKenzie Steiner

Published: December 8, 2017, Updated: December 8, 2017

"All of us have learned a lot. Not only about bowling, but also about each other.”

Lincoln Southwest unified bowling athlete Elissa Fuelberth