By Steven Marowski, '18
On Saturday, April 9, Albion College student-athletes participated in the unified Special Olympics bowling challenge held at University Lanes, right here in Albion. Senior Andrew Bobowski, the President of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and Briton men's soccer goalkeeper, wanted to do something that the entire conference could participate in.
"The inspiration for the bowling event came when we were reached out to by someone from the State Special Olympics office," Bobowski said. "Bowling seemed like something that was feasible no matter what campus you were on."
The bowling started at 1 p.m., and each Special Olympian received a gift bag. The five highest scores from the Special Olympians and the student-athletes from each school will be submitted these scores. The school with the highest combined score wins the event.
The list of Britons participating included men's soccer players Bobowski and Zach Haapala, swimmer Katie Ferrero, Jordan Herron, Travell Oakes and Corey Wheeler from the men's basketball team, Emily DeWaters and Jodie Bosheers from the women's basketball squad, Amanda Allen, Lauren Bensley, and Kayla Paquette from the women's soccer team, and volleyball middle hitter Stephanie Thurner.
According to Thurner, a junior from Caledonia, Mich., the atmosphere rivaled what one would expect for one of the Britons biggest games of the year.
"We had a huge fan section filled with families and friends," Thurner said. "We were definitely the loudest people at the lanes. Regardless of whether it was a strike or a gutter ball, everyone received the same support."
For student-athletes like Bobowski and Thurner, opportunities to work within the community are special. Working with the Special Olympians and fellow student-athletes can remind everyone of the love and passion they have for competition, but it can also build relationships that extend beyond the playing field. For Thurner, it was a chance to relish all of the opportunities that Albion College offers her.
"Events like these expand my Albion family and bring together athletes through a love of competition, sports and fun," she said. "It helps me realize all of the opportunities I have. The Special Olympians are always so excited and passionate, and they give everything they have to the challenge they're presented with."
Thurner recalls one instance when Hannah, one of the Special Olympians, gave her a big hug and wished her luck. Thurner proceeded to bowl a strike, and Hannah was ecstatic. When Thurner threw a gutter ball once, Hannah told her to get the next one and gave her a big hug again.
"In general, these events remind me of the passion I have for athletics, the relationships they bring and that there is more to the game than winning," Thurner said.
Last year, senior men's basketball players Jordan Herron and Travell Oakes helped the Area 19 unified volleyball team to a gold medal in the Special Olympics State Games. Herron remarked about how he was looking up to role models in the Special Olympians, and the student-athletes that competed in the bowling event can say the same for this year as well.
Both Bobowski and Thurner hope that the bowling event is one that will be continued in future years through SAAC.
"This is the first year that we are doing this event," Bobowski said, "but I am hoping that this becomes something that continues to happen in the future."
Thurner added, "Everything went smoothly and I hope that this becomes a tradition within the MIAA."
For more images, please see the Albion SAAC Facebook gallery