‘It’s almost like a perfect match’: Kentucky’s Unified Championships bond high school bowlers

While two Fern Creek teams faced off, the bonds created outlast any results.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — After two days of individual and team competitions, the KHSAA Bowling Championships switched lanes to its Unified Championships Wednesday.

High school bowlers in Kentucky are paired with another bowler with a disability, building a relationship as teammates and forming a friendship that lasts beyond a frame.

Fern Creek students chose each other at the start of the year. Isiah Jones partnered up with Joel Hurst, while Blake Beard bowled with Caitlyn Glenn.

“They kind of bring out the best in each other,” assistant coach Ryan Cook said. “It’s almost like a perfect match for them to bowl together.”

The Unified Championships are made possible through a partnership between KHSAA and Special Olympics, promoting unity and inclusion in sports.

“We want everybody to be a unit, whether you’re bowling, whether you’re supporting,” Hurst said.

All competitors agreed that their partners bring out the best in them, giving them the energy and enthusiasm they need.

“When I’m bowling with Blake, I feel like it’s everything, because he just puts energy in me,” Glenn said. “And he’s just so friendly.”

The competition not only lets competitors show off their bowling skills, but provides friendships that may not have been explored otherwise.

“He picks me up really good, because he tells me I got your back and I agree with him every time,” Jones said. “My best friend, my best partner — best partner in the world.”

The four had to face off in the quarterfinals, with Jones and Hurst beating Beard and Glenn to finish in the top four.

“It means a lot because besides bowling, I really love to hang out with Isiah…he’s a special person,” Hurst said.

As the results fall like pins, the love is always there to spare

“They can make a good impact on other people,” Cook said. “They can lead by example is really what it comes down to.”

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