CHESTERTOWN — Kent County High School’s unified bocce team of three Special Olympics athletes and two “partners” placed fourth, one spot out of the medals, at the state high school invitational May 2.
KCHS handily defeated National Academy Foundation of Baltimore City, 15-3, in the first round. Elkton defeated Kent by four points in the second round, and Pocomoke defeated Kent in the next round.
Unified teams are comprised of students with intellectual disabilities and students without disabilities, who train and compete together.
For the fourth year in a row, Washington College’s Roy Kirby Jr. Stadium was the venue for the state championship-like event. There were about 250 athletes from 10 school districts: Anne Arundel, Caroline, Cecil, host Kent, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s, Talbot, Wicomico and Worcester counties and Baltimore City.
Sophomore Liza Steele and junior Danielle Blake represented Kent during the introduction of county delegations. Michael Gordon and Alexander Maas, also from host Kent, led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance during opening ceremonies.
Anne Arundel County athletes Ronald “T.J.” Garner, of Southern High School, and Elliott Lowman, of Northeast High School, carried the Flame of Hope around the track to officially launch the Games.
Christa Collison, a registered nurse who heads Kent County High School’s health occupations program, coached the Trojans for the fourth year in a row.
Kent had two teams, with the Special Olympics athletes sharing Blake and Maas as their partners.
The team of Steele, freshman Tyler Gregg and freshman Nymaine Moore captured a gold medal in the regional competition that was held at Rising Sun High School. The team of Cory Penn, Michael Gordon and Brandon Morris came away with a bronze medal.
This year, however, only the regions’ gold medal-winning teams advanced to the state tournament.
Kent’s bocce athletes started practicing in late January, but they were challenged by the snow and ice that shuttered school and the rain and cold temperatures that forced practices indoors — for the better part of three months. They practiced fewer than 10 times.
Rolling balls down school hallways was not adequate preparation for throwing bocci on the outside grass or turf, according to Collison. “The whole feel of rolling the ball is different,” she said.
All in all, though, it was an excellent season.
May 2 “was a great day,” Collison said. “I am so proud of all the athletes and partners.”