ORONO -- Bemidji High School made a name for itself with a third-place finish at the first-ever State Unified Basketball Tournament on Wednesday at Orono High School.
The tournament was split into two divisions, and BHS placed third in the Division A grouping.
Individuals with and without intellectual disabilities from across Minnesota took the court for the inaugural tournament. Twelve high school teams put Unified Sports on center stage in attempt to break down barriers and foster inclusion.
Bemidji High School started implementing Unified programming five years ago.
“Unified has made a big impact on our school,” BHS physical education teacher and Unified coach Jackie Stoffel said in a press release. “The biggest impact I’ve seen is with the student relationships. Through Unified, students have created authentic relationships and you see it all over the school.”
Unified Sports is an inclusive sports program that unites Special Olympics athletes (individuals with intellectual disabilities) and partners (individuals without intellectual disabilities) as teammates for training and competition. Over 200 Minnesota schools implement Unified Schools programming, as do nearly 10,000 schools nationally, according to a release.
Special Olympics Minnesota plans to host the State Unified Basketball Tournament annually with hopes of expanding to each region of the state.