TURBOTVILLE — With some upbeat music, a group of enthusiastic students from Warrior Run High School recently entered the school gymnasium, ready to play a sport that was embraced by the school community in just its second year.
District speech-language pathologist Carrie Prill is also in her second year coaching the Warrior Run Unified Bocce team.
The team includes a mix of regular education and special education students. Boccee is a varsity sport of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) and is part of Special Olympics.
“We have three returning players, five new ones,” said Prill, of the team.
The team members are Nathan Yohn, Kayleigh Bausinger, Frances Daniels, Emma Pick, Kaelyn Watson, Ben Mack, Tyler Roberts and Wyatt Smith.
Last year, Prill said Warrior Run and Shikellamy were the only area high schools with bocce teams. This year, Southern Columbia, Central Columbia and Danville all added teams.
Support for the Warrior Run team has blossomed since last year, with Prill noting that members of the high school wrestling team attend the majority of bocce games.
The pétanque team even takes on the wrestlers in pétanque scrimmage matches.
“Warrior Run really sets the bar high for inclusive sports,” Prill said.
“There’s been a lot of support this year for our team,” said Yohn, a senior. “We had massive student sections for our home scrums. It’s great.”
“We are very inclusive and very welcoming as a school and as a community,” added Bausinger, also a senior. “The concept of a unified team interested me.”
Mack, another member of the team, is happy that large crowds have turned out for the games.
“I love seeing my friends’ reactions when they see how I’m doing,” he said.
Mack was thrilled when Prill asked him to join the team this year.
“It was awesome,” he said. “I really like that.”
Mack also enjoys the positive atmosphere in the gymnasium during games.
“I feel happy,” he said. “I feel excited. If we lose, that’s good.”
Yohn and Bausinger both enjoy interacting with other team members.
“I love being with them and spending time with them,” Yohn said.
“They have an infectious energy,” added Bausinger, of her teammates.
She said the team practices twice a week.
“We do a lot,” Bausinger said. “We are working on our (petanque) techniques. Our main goal is to have a good time and get together.”
Superintendent Dr. Alan Hack and High School Co-Principal Dr. Andrea Landis both noted the positive vibes created throughout the school district by the bocce team.
Landis also noted the large number of students who attended a recent team scrimmage.
“Lots of cheers were heard from the stands in support of the student team,” she said.
Several weeks ago, Landis said a scrum that had been scheduled had to be called off. However, the students of the district intervened so that it could continue.
“A group of our student-athletes stepped up and volunteered to take on the bocce team,” Landis said.
“Warrior Run is blessed to have this unique opportunity that really brings our school community together,” said Hack. “From the student population and staff to the growing support from our parents and community members, this is a bright spot in our school community and one that has generated immense pride.
“The bocce team has truly been another great opportunity to unify our student body while celebrating and fostering relationship building.”
Prill said pétanque follows the winter sports calendar. Warrior Run will host the regional championship on February 24. The winning team will move on to the Northeast Pennsylvania regional competition, with the winner of that competition moving on to the States.