Editor’s note: Mt. Ararat High School senior Landen Chase is doing his senior capstone project on sports journalism. He has been an occasional question-and-answer series — as well as some other stories — for The Times Record. In this one, Chase discusses his experience as a partner on the Mt. Ararat Unified basketball team.
Mt. Ararat High School made some history on March 6, when it hosted its first-ever Unified basketball game.
Unified sports are offered as co-ed athletic opportunities for students with developmental disabilities by the Maine Principals’ Association. Unified sports are run through a partnership with the Special Olympics.
Teams are comprised of “athletes” (those with disabilities) and “partners,” students without disabilities who are there to assist the athletes during competition.
On March 6, athletes and their partners from Mt. Ararat and Edward Little of Auburn squared off in Topsham.
It was not only a historic moment for Mt. Ararat, but also a memorable one.
The teams exhibited terrific sportsmanship and all-out enthusiasm for basketball in its most positive form.
Everyone, it seemed, left the gym feeling better that day. I know I did.
As a partner, the game put a lot of things in perspective — for example, less judgment and more encouragement go a long way.
Mt. Ararat coaches Teri Tlumac and Eli Timberlake led the charge and got the players ready for 80 minutes of play. There was no yelling at the refs, no criticism from the stands, and most importantly, no barriers for our peers who just want an opportunity to compete in sports.
“Walking down the hall (on March 6) a teacher in the building stated that Unified is the best thing that has happened at MTA this year,” coach Tlumac said. “The joy in the faces that Unified sports bring to our athletes is what it’s all about. The fist-bumps and high-fives on the court and hallways are priceless.”
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I signed up to help, but it didn’t take long to realize being a partner would be a rewarding experience. Every athlete on both teams scored. The high scorers for MTA included Gabriel Russell, Gage Smith, MaKenzie Johnson, and Aaron Atkinson.
When asked about his favorite part of the game, Russell said, “Scoring a basket.”
After the conclusion of the Unifed season — Mt. Ararat also played at Brunswick — the hope is that the sport will continue to grow here.
The two games have inspired athletes to come out and play, as well as encourage others to volunteer their time and help.
Unified basketball is not only good for the athletes but also brings out the best in our community.