INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference and Special Olympics Indiana partnered to host the third-annual Unified Sports Bowling Championship, Sunday, April 2 at Expo Bowl in Indianapolis. The occasion continued the conference’s and NCAA Division III’s partnership with Special Olympics.
During the event, 115 athletes from Special Olympics chapters in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky and student-athletes from HCAC member institutions teamed up in an effort to bring home the second HCAC Unified Bowling Championship.
"I am thrilled with the level of enthusiasm, support and participation this event has generated from our conference membership and Special Olympics," said HCAC Commissioner Chris Ragsdale. "Unified Bowling has provided a wonderful opportunity for our conference student-athletes to engage in competition with Special Olympics athletes, develop meaningful relationships, and share with them as teammates the desire and determination necessary in sport to be successful."
Unified is a term that reflects athletes with intellectual disabilities and without intellectual disabilities competing together on a team. Each team had four total members, two with intellectual disabilities and two without intellectual disabilities, with each HCAC member institution sponsoring multiple teams at the event.
Teams finishing first, second, or third in their division received gold, silver, and bronze medals, respectively. Fourth through fifth places received ribbons.
The team with the highest score including handicap was awarded the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference championship trophy. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology claimed the title with a total pin fall of 5,225 during the event.
Bluffton University's Ryan Walden earned the HCAC Most Valuable Player award for his efforts, finishing with a total pin fall of 754.
Individuals that finished second through ninth were also recognized as All-HCAC following the event (see below).
“The HCAC raised the bar today with how student-athletes can become champions through sports,” stated Michael Furnish, President/CEO of Special Olympics Indiana. “By partnering with Special Olympics athletes to compete on unified bowling teams they demonstrate a level of compassion and character worthy of the best.”
The partnership between the HCAC and Special Olympics aligns with the Division III strategic-positioning platform as the student-athlete becomes more involved in the local community.
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