H-F’s Special Olympics Basketball Program Kicks Off


Photo by Annelise Latham

H-F’s Unified Basketball program beating Rich Township 32-38 on 12/6

H-F’s Special Olympics Basketball program is known for its success and high intensity of play. This program consists of two brackets, the Red and White team and the Unified team. 

This year’s Unified team consists of 7 Special Olympic athletes [Braylen Baptiste, Drake Barton, Tyler Dean, Michael Gordon, Ayron Stewart, Zion Willis and Samuel Zinaich] and 7 Unified partners [David Anderson, Ryan Castady, Nick Calomino, Joseph Neal, Nolan McNellis, Finn Schmidt and Xavier White]. 

This season’s Red & White team, which is built of only Special Olympic athletes, consists of Marco Agting, Gianna Bucci, Alyson Harris, Josh Herman, Clinton Holmes, Faustin Kelly, Kamarion Mason, Anaya McCoy, Quinn McNellis, Beverly Nwachukwu, Eliakim Taylor and Jair Taylor.

Coached by Brian Garland, Tiffany Mucha, Katie Nieckula, Jen Olumstad, Matt Raglione, Katie Rice and Aimee Veal and managed by Alyssa Alexander, this year’s Special Olympics basketball program kicked off on Oct. 7 with their practices and hosted their first Unified invite on Oct. 12 and took second place. 

In addition to the players, H-F also has a Unified Viking Spirit Squad for Special Education students who don’t want to play basketball. These cheerleaders are Aryanna Anderson, Briyani Atkinson, Jada Barr, Abigail Dean, Zakiya Figgs, Alyssa Ford, Mallory Garcia, Jade Harris, Ireland Kelly, Lillian Kessler, Morgan Mollett, Hannah Napue, Makyra Perkins, Jourdyn Yarbrough and Ana Maria Zambrano.

In terms of playoffs, the Red and White team is headed to their state-determining regional tournament on Jan. 22, and the Unified team is headed to their regional on Feb. 18.

The coaches and the players are equally excited about this season.

“The partners create such a sense of inclusion, they really hold the team together,” says Rice.

Unified partner McNellis says, “I’m so excited for this season. I’m really looking forward to winning our regular game and state and creating really strong friendships with peers and partners.”

Red and White team member Mason expressed his excitement as well.

 “I’m very excited for this season. Our first game was pretty fun and I’m so excited for the rest of the season,” stated Mason.

Additionally, according to Unified athlete Barton, “I’m thrilled for this season since I came out from baseball. I decided to join this season because I made a promise to a friend so we could play together. In my first game, I was doing really well and we won because we had our eye on the prize. It also helps that I have the best team and friends in my basketball life. ”

All in all, everyone involved is more than excited about this basketball season and the outlook is good for them.