Lane Tech Unified Basketball takes on Ray Graham in winter Special Olympics contest


Ella Schulson

Cluster Program athletes line up in Gym 1 before their Special Olympics Basketball matchup against Ray Graham on Jan. 27. The game also featured dance, cheer and music performances.

By Ella Schulson

The stands in Gym 1 were full of students with signs, foam fingers and other Lane Tech gear providing support for their fellow students. Lane’s cheer team was on the sidelines, hyping up and cheering on the players. 

On Friday, Jan. 27, all the students who were in PE during 3rd and 4th period gathered together to cheer on the cluster program in a basketball game. 

“It’s a great opportunity for us to show support for the buddies,” said senior cheerleader Niamh Dillon.

A fellow cheerleader, Daria Williams, agreed, saying, “[The game is] important because it gives everyone equal opportunities in sports.” 

This event is a part of the Special Olympics schedule, a global organization that allows athletes with disabilities to participate in the sports that they love. The organization was founded in 1968 and has since promoted inclusivity throughout the United States.

Flag football was in September, Floor Hockey October/November, Basketball in December and the next sports are soccer, volleyball and softball,” said Sarah Koncel, diverse learner teacher and coach of the Lane Tech Special Olympics team.

Koncel said this game was particularly special because many Special Olympics events are not held at Lane. Since this was a home game, the Lane community was able to be involved and give support to their fellow classmates.

“In September, we played Ray Graham at the flag football scrimmages and invited them to come play at Lane,” Koncel said. “The entire Cluster Program and the PE classes who would have been using the stadium watched. It was successful, so we planned a floor hockey game and got the Lane Buddies involved to make it an inclusive event.”

I love playing as teammates and working together and helping each other,” said athlete Janai Vasquez. “My favorite part is being able to play together.” 

The crowd was made up of Lane Tech students, as well as other supporters who were equally excited about the game. With every basket, cheers erupted and with every near miss, everyone was on the edge of their seats. 

Koncel said that her favorite part of the game was seeing the crowd cheer for the team.

“It promotes inclusion, gives the Special Olympics athletes a chance to have a home game, and it’s really fun,” Koncel said.

In between the six minute quarters were short events like hula hoop contests, basket challenges and cheer and dance performances. Other cluster program students participated, as well as members of the crowd and the cheer and dance teams. 

 There was a lot of support for the Diverse Learners team from the stands. However, as Williams pointed out, “They could always have more support; there’s no such thing as too much support.”

The next game will be either volleyball or softball depending on the Special Olympics schedule. 

Koncel said that their goal is to have a skills competition event, which would allow other cluster program students to participate. This adds to the ultimate goal of any unified event, which Koncel said is inclusion in sports for every student at Lane Tech.

“It promotes inclusion, gives the Special Olympics athletes a chance to have a home game, and it’s really fun,” Koncel said.