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Local MC Special Olympian Bowlers set sights on Florida

LEWISTOWN – Five bowlers with one dream.

With the restart of live competition Special Olympic events, five local athletes are vying for a chance to take their talents to Florida for a chance to bowl in the United States Special Olympic Games.

“The shortened bowling season is the first in person sport offered since the pandemic shutting down sport,” said Mifflin/Juniata Special Olympic Athletics coordinator Marcus Brothers. “The opportunity to qualify for nationals came about through a selection of athletes that were deemed able of traveling to nationals by themselves – this is basically a qualifier for nationals or US games, we have a few more athletes able to be put into the drawing for nationals for swimming.”

Those bowlers are Brandon Beers, Bobby Fisher, Gretchen Wilhelm, Stephen Hipple and Jodi Wagner.

All five a practicing their craft every Friday at Lewistown Lanes.

Coaching the team is Steve Hipple. He is very proud of his team and the turnout he had during the fall season.

“We have more bowlers in the Central Region than the rest of the state than has combined,” Hipple said of the region’s turnout. “Normally our team has a 35-player roster but we were averaging 12-15.

With the help of Lewistown Lane owner Doug Bowersox donating valuable lane time for the bowlers, the group gets closer to their dream as each roll of the ball heads down the lane.

For one athlete, it has been a dream that one veteran all-around athlete Bobby Fisher has been waiting for his while athletic career.

“It feels like a dream to me because this is the first time that I get a chance like this,” said Fisher. “I hope I get it. It’s been a dream of mine since I was eight.”

Another bowler, Brandon Beers is only in his second year of bowling is just as excited to get ready for competition because of the times he spends with the others.

“I like spending time with my friends, said Beers.

Teammates Gretchen Wilhelm, Stephen Hipple and Jody Wagner are another pair of veterans who are excited to go but also are enjoying time with their friends.

Before they write their ticket to Florida, the locals will have to qualify at a tournament.

“The first thing they are going to have to do is qualify for States which is in six weeks,” said Hipple. “ If they qualify at States they will have to go through the draw and you have to get a gold. Then you become a part of team USA. From there you get the chance to go to Florida.”

The bowling qualifier will be in late August in Harrisburg.

With the position the bowlers are in, they have already shown, no matter how far they may get, that hard work, determination and even fun can make the “skies the limit” and nothing will stop them from being the best they can be. It is an attitude that has not gone unnoticed by coaches, fans and even the Mifflin/Juniata board members.

“We are always proud of our athletes and competing in every opportunity we are offered, our athletes have been very eager to get back to competing in sports since the pandemic the drive has always remained even through the uncertainty,” added Brothers. “It would be tremendous opportunity for local athletes to make it to US games and possibly qualify for World Special Olympics- I can’t think of a greater honor for the local community.”

All of athletes have shown time and time again that with heart and determination there are no limits they can’t surpass.

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