BUCKHANNON — With an escort from the Buckhannon Police Department, athletes from the Upshur County Special Olympics headed south for the state bowling competition in Charleston Saturday morning. Competing in singles and doubles, 23 athletes from Upshur County were striving to make strikes and lead the tournament. The bowlers spent two full days in Kanawha County, bowling simultaneously at two different alleys.
The athletes have been practicing steadily since September at Woody’s Bowling Alley in Buckhannon. The champions are scored individually and then paired in their divisions based on their ability levels, according to Alisa Lively of the Upshur County Special Olympics. Forty of the 55 counties in West Virginia have Special Olympics programs. All of the team’s participants are from Upshur County, with the exception of two, but they have always participated with Upshur County Special Olympics.
Athletes in the program range from age eight, on up. The youngest bowler for Upshur County Special Olympics is nine and the eldest is over 60. The competition in Charleston is the state tournament and has been hosted in Kanawha County the past several years. After the tournament on Saturday night, bowlers went to the National Guard Armory for a dinner and dance, which allows all the athletes to mingle with other athletes from the various counties. The National Guard is a huge volunteer organization for the Special Olympics, according to Lively.
Woody’s Bowling Alley hosted a pizza party for the athletes on Friday night as a special send-off to the tournament. “They sent us off in style, which was very nice,” stated Lively. Lively’s daughter Megan was a participant in the Special Olympics for 21 years and competed in bowling for several of those years, until sweet Megan passed away in July. At the final practice before the tournament, Ronnie and Cemantha Woody of Woody’s Bowling Alley, honored Megan’s memory by presenting Lively and her husband with a framed photo of Megan with her bowling ball and an engraved wooden pin. Lively was very touched by this memento. The athletes also wore a blue ribbon in memory of Megan at their tournament this weekend.