xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement

Howard County Allied bowling program rolling along

For the better part of nine months a year, Michael Terwilliger's afternoons are filled with pats on the back and high fives.

As a three-season coach for the Allied Sports programs at Hammond High School, Terwilliger takes his responsibilities that go along with leading a team very seriously. Only for him, along with his fellow Allied coaches at schools around the county, success is largely measured by smiles instead of wins and losses.

Advertisement

"If you ask me, Allied Sports are the best representation of what sports are and what they should be. It's the most energetic group of kids, they are so engaged, and they have the most fun. It's everything that sports are about," said Terwilliger, who is a special education teacher at Hammond. "I'm blessed to be a part of it and to be able to work with these kids every day.

"I've had opportunities to become a JV coach here at the school, but this is where my heart is and, when I see the smiles on these kids faces, I know this is where I belong."

There were plenty of smiles to go around on the afternoon of Jan. 8 at the Brunswick Columbia Lanes during what was officially listed as a practice day for Howard County's Allied Bowling programs. Seven teams, consisting of official roster members that have either a physical or mental disability or don't play any other varsity of JV sport in the county, bowled on lanes taking up roughly half the facility. The bowlers were joined by a large contingent of other students, participating as non-bowling team members.

Over in Ellicott City, the six other county schools participated in a similar practice session at the Brunswick Zone Normandy Bowl.

Now in its fifth year, the Allied Sports program has grown significantly in Howard County since it kicked off in 2011. Four sports are offered, with soccer and golf taking place in the fall, bowling in the winter and then softball in the spring.

The bowling program, between the 12 public schools and Cedar Lane, currently has nearly 150 individuals on official rosters. Some teams, like Atholton, Howard and Mt. Hebron, have well over 20 kids. Throw in each team having a varying number of student "partners" and it makes for a lively, positive environment that has proven to be very rewarding for its participants.

"Bowling comes as close as we can come in Howard County in terms of 100 percent inclusion. Our goal is to try to make sure everyone has an opportunity and it's truly great to see students with and without disabilities working and playing together," said Allied Sports Consultant Chuck Struhar, who has been involved with the programs from the beginning. "I've coached a lot of different sports for many years, but this is the absolute best thing that I have ever done in athletics. Hands down."

Throughout the winter season, bowling teams compete in roughly a dozen matches to go along with one practice session a week. Scores are kept and teams technically compete against one another, with some individuals showcasing an ability to score in the upper 100s on any given day.

Advertisement

This year, standings are being kept for the first time. In Columbia, Oakland Mills and Wilde Lake have been the top teams thus far, while undefeated Glenelg and Mt. Hebron are leading the way at Normandy.

But when you ask the coaches it becomes quickly obvious that the "competitive part of it is secondary."

"It's sports, everyone is out here to do their best, but it's so much more than that," Long Reach Allied Bowling coach Chuck Spalding said. "At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what the scores are as much as that everyone feels like they got to be part of a team and represent their school."

The relationships are a big part of it for many of the participants.

"They are all my friends," said Long Reach junior Brighton Ditter, who participates in Allied soccer, bowling and softball at the school and proceeded to rattle off the names of all his teammates. "We have lots of fun and I like playing all the sports with them."

The partners, some who are varsity athletes in other sports during other seasons, are important pieces to the Allied Sports puzzle as well. They provide assistance when needed, but just as importantly are often the first waiting to issue congratulations and encouragement.

Advertisement

"To be honest, they are doing more for me than I am doing for them. They change the way I look at things," said Reservoir senior Erica Caporaletti, who is an all-county golfer in the fall and plays varsity softball in the spring. She has been a part of the program since she was a freshman and also participates in the Best Buddies program. "Being around their energy, watching them and seeing how happy they are when they are bowling, it's just great to be a part of."

Atholton seniors Gaby Lagomarsino, who also plays volleyball, and Brian Florenzo, who plays lacrosse, have been Allied Bowling volunteers for three years.

"It's a really friendly environment … it's more about enjoying the sport instead of being all about the competition," Lagomarsino said. "Score isn't as important as being happy and teamwork."

Florenzo says he's personally seen growth in the program since his sophomore year.

"They have really done a good job, at least at our school, of getting the word out there that this is something fun you can do after school and also help out in a meaningful way," Florenzo said.

The Allied Sports program opened up its bowling season Tuesday, Dec. 8 at Normandy Lanes in Brunswick in fantastic fashion, with Oakland Mills, Reservoir, Wilde Lake, Centennial, Glenelg and Howard all saw victories, as 13 teams competed.

The regular season builds up to a Super BOWL at the Columbia Lanes each winter, with this year's event scheduled for Jan. 29. All 13 teams are in attendance, spread out among all the lanes at the facility.

Struhar says this year will also be the first time that the Allied Bowling program will venture outside the county, with three teams scheduled to travel to Anne Arundel County in early February for a District V Bowl Off.

The push to have non-county matches will spill into softball in the spring as well, with Struhar aiming to set something up with Baltimore County.

The prevailing goal, for all involved, seems to be simply to continue expanding the program's reach.

"I love the direction everything is headed. The opportunities are there. If anything, I just would like even more people to come out and see what we're all about," Terwilliger said. "This is still one of the hidden gems of Howard County sports, if you ask me."

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement