FHS Unified Basketball Represents MA in Special Olympics

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The Unified Basketball team gathers to celebrate going to the Special Olympics! Photo Credit: Halle Goldsmith

Aislinn Lavery, Writer

Franklin High School had an amazing sports season this fall, and recently, yet another team has had an enormous achievement. Members of the FHS Unified Basketball team will be representing Massachusetts in the Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida in June!

A Special Olympics Representative announces Franklin’s selection for the Special Olympics. Photo Credit: Halle Goldsmith

The Special Olympics is a national organization that offers opportunities for those with disabilities to compete in athletics. The Unified Basketball and Unified Track programs, both of which have been offered at FHS for six years, are formed through a partnership between the MIAA and Special Olympics.

Athletes Tyler Morril and Jared Hamilton, and their partners Justin Allen and Delanie Lynch, will be traveling to Florida to represent the team. 

“When we found out we were selected we were all thrilled. I know most of us are really looking forward to the whole bonding experience our selection is going to make with one another. Although we are already one big group of friends this is such a great opportunity to strengthen our friendship and have a blast in Orlando!” says Delanie Lynch. 

Out of the innumerable Unified Basketball teams throughout Massachusetts, the FHS team was selected by Special Olympics staff due to its supportive and cohesive environment. The team competed in qualifying games to be chosen. 

The Unified Basketball team had an extremely accomplished regular season as well. Not only were they thrilled to hold a full season during the pandemic, but they finished their season with an undefeated streak in not one, but two end-of-season jamborees. 

“If I had to pinpoint an exciting moment, it would always be the blue and white games, especially this year for our senior game where we were able to have fans in the stands and watching all the students and fans cheering, laughing and having fun!” says Coach Berger.

Special Olympics representatives met with the Unified Basketball team at FHS to announce that they had achieved selection as the Massachusetts Representatives, creating an extremely proud and emotional scene in the Main Office. 

Coach Rice and Coach Berger, who head the team with Coach Leighton, were both incredibly excited for their team. 

The Unified Basketball team puts its hands in, celebrating its amazing season and selection for the Special Olympics. Photo credit: Halle Goldsmith

“Their sportsmanship, their commitment, and their abilities to make everyone feel included is inspiring and commendable. The whole team are role models for others and what inclusion should look like for students with and without disabilities,” says Coach Berger.

Coach Rice added, “I am always excited to see shy, reserved students, become more comfortable with their teammates and have fun on the court.  Or to see other students learn to lead, whether or on the court or off the court cheering on their teammates.”

When I’m with this team, I feel like I’m with family.”

— Lizzie Middleman

 

Meanwhile, the selected teammates themselves have already bought Minnie and Mickey ears in preparation for their trip to Disney World and planned which parks and rides they’ll be exploring. 

Above all, the Unified Basketball team’s success reveals the power of friendship and unity at FHS. As Unified Basketball athlete Lizzie Middleman says, “When I’m with this team, I feel like I’m with family.”