Special Olympics team qualifies for State

After taking first place at the Special Olympics of Illinois Regional Tournament, the Special Olympics basketball team qualified for the State Tournament.

The State basketball tournament is Friday, March 15-Sunday, March 17, at the Horton Fieldhouse in Bloomington, Illinois. The team is comprised of athletes from North and Central. The team members from North include Jonathan Bamberg, Tim Ryno, Patrick Miner, Kellen Bovill, Michael Dionido and Phineas Hopkins. The team members from Central include Lukasz Kendera and Henry Pogue.

“This is such an awesome group of athletes that really love coming together to do one thing: to have fun playing basketball,” said coach Allison Barker. “Their love for it is contagious, and we all have a great time working on specific skills then seeing all of their hard work come together at game time.”

At the regional tournament, divisions are created dependent on student skill levels. Each division has four teams, and the winner of the division goes on to compete at State.

“I am most looking forward to a challenge (against) teams,” said junior Tim Ryno.

With State being in March, the team will be practicing more until the games begin.

“I am most looking forward to practicing more,” said junior Michael Dionido.

The team has played three games so far outside of the tournament. They won their first game against Crystal Lake, and two other games were against Cove School.

“These athletes have done a great job of not only working on their personal ball skills, but they’ve really blown me away with their communication on the court. A lot of the athletes this year are new to the sport, and it’s been great to see the team grow from last year,” Barker said.

The coaches and athletes all enjoy being a part of the team.

“What I like most about being on the team is playing with my teammates and learning after tough loses and what we can do after losing a game,” Ryno said.

Being able to work and hang out with the team is a favorite among the team members.

“What is like most about being on the team is hanging out with my team,” Dionido said.

Team members agree that the season has been “awesome and really fun,” Ryno said.