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WHSAA partners with Special Olympics Wyoming

Shylo Johner, 14, reapplies the gold medal her brother Blayne Johner won for bowling during the 2022 Special Olympics Wyoming Fall Tournament on Friday, Aug. 10, at El Mark-O Lanes in Casper. This is the first Special Olympics games competition for the Gillette native, who picked up two gold medals total. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming High School Activities Association is working with Special Olympics Wyoming to encourage and develop Special Olympics Unified Sports through school memberships in Wyoming.

Unified Sports brings together equal numbers of teammates with intellectual disabilities (Special Olympics athletes) and without (Unified partners) on sports teams for training and competition. It was inspired by a simple principle: Training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding. Special Olympics Wyoming offers Unified Sports programs year-round in 12 of its 16 sports.

WHSAA Commissioner Trevor Wilson said he’s pleased by the ever-growing interest among the member schools.

“We are very excited about our partnership with Special Olympics and Unified Track and Field,” Wilson said. “We look forward to providing more opportunities for students in an educational-based arena this spring.”

Through the endorsement, the WHSAA aims to promote Unified Sports programs throughout its schools as well as create opportunities for students throughout Wyoming to have increased opportunities for community service and leadership activities. WHSAA currently incorporates Special Olympics relays into their State Track and Field and State Swimming competitions.

“Special Olympics Wyoming is pleased to partner with the Wyoming High School Activities Association to bring Unified Track to our Wyoming schools. Through Unified Track, our Wyoming high school students with and without intellectual disabilities will develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience the joy of sports with their teammates. We are excited about the endless opportunities for inclusion this partnership will bring to our schools and communities,” he added.

“Unified Sports is an integral part of Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools, a program that strategically creates sports, leadership and whole-school engagement opportunities for students with and without intellectual disabilities,” Jen Haines, president and CEO of Special Olympics Wyoming, said. 

Wyoming has over 60 UCS schools and has a goal of 80 for the 2023–24 school year. The model is supported by the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education.

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