A team of Special Olympics bowlers from Union County will have a chance to show off their athletic skills on the national level as they travel across the U.S. to compete in the Special Olympics National Unified Bowling Tournament next month.
The competition will take place in Reno, Nev., from Feb. 25 to 27. Special Olympics bowlers Cameron Wilson and Jared Viransky, along with bowling partners Tappie Dellinger and Jason White and coach Chuck Dellinger, will represent Union County and be one of two teams from North Carolina competing in the tournament. The other team hails from Onslow County.
Cameron and Jared represent a larger group of more than 20 Special Olympics bowlers from Union County who have practiced together once a week since September 2013. Three teams from Union County competed in the state tournament series in Newton, N.C., and two of those teams won gold medals in their division.
“A lot of them had practiced on their own,” Dellinger said. “… They showed up when it was tournament time and really bowled great.”
All gold medal teams were entered into a random drawing to travel to Reno for the national tournament.
“There are approximately 900 bowlers that competed in the Special Olympics on that day,” Dellinger said, adding he was surprised Union County was chosen out of all of the other teams in the hat. “We’re excited to get to go on a trip like this – this never happens in Union County.”
For the Unified Bowling Tournament, Special Olympics bowlers – typically those with developmental disabilities – will team up with a “unified partner,” or mainstream bowler, for the competition. The competition will take place over the course of two days, and the two bowlers and their unified partners will bowl a total of six games during their time in Reno.
“We’re leaning more toward promoting unified, having a special needs person bowl with a mainstream person,” said Dellinger, who also serves on the sports development team for the Special Olympics of North Carolina.
The teams will compete at the United States Bowling Congress National Bowling Stadium, where the 1996 sports comedy “Kingpin” was filmed. They’ll also have the chance to meet people traveling to Reno for the 2014 USBC Open Championship, taking place later that week.
“Having the opportunity to bowl in such a tremendous stadium is exciting,” Dellinger said. “It’s the ultimate bowling stadium in the country, (and) they’ll get to meet some really neat people there.”
The competition allows bowlers to connect with other Special Olympics athletes from across the country and make friends they can keep in touch with through email and social media outlets, such as Facebook, Dellinger said. It’s also an opportunity for them to experience other “new and exciting” things.
“They’ll meet friends they’ll have forever there and get to do things they’ve never done before, see things they’ve never seen before,” Dellinger said. “Some of these guys have never flown on an airplane before – this is new and exciting for them, and it gives me a good feeling inside to see that.”
Dellinger’s favorite thing about working with the Special Olympics bowlers is watching their excitement when they’re participating in the sport, and he’s excited to experience the national competition along with them – whether they win or lose.
“No matter if they get a strike, no matter if they get a gutter, they’re so happy to be participating,” Dellinger said. “They’re always happy to be there, no matter how they bowl.”