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St. Marys Unified Bocce Teams Win State Title

Photo by Chris Rossetti

HERSHEY, Pa. – St. Marys is golden in bocce.


Clarion Office of


The St. Marys Unified Indoor Bocce team took home the Pennsylvania Special Olympics/PIAA Unified Bocce championship Thursday morning at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa.

Played before the PIAA basketball championship games Thursday, the Unified Bocce championships featured eight teams throughout the Commonwealth, including St. Marys and Harbor Creek.


The eight-person team took home the title in its first year of competition.

“We did not anticipate winning in our first year, going all the way to states,” St. Marys superintendent Harley Ramsey said. “That’s always exciting. Our kids really worked hard together. They practiced a lot together. They really leverage each other’s strengths, and there are a lot of strengths across the team of eight. It’s been very, very exciting, and we came away with a gold.”

Unified Bocce teams are made up of students who are identified as having intellectual or developmental disabilities and students who do not have either, according to Ramsey.

“There are equal numbers of players on each side of the court during each frame (in terms of those with intellectual or developmental disabilities and those without),” Ramsey said. “They practice together and they play together.”

Ramsey said St. Marys decided to put together a team this past summer to help promote unity across the district.

“We identified this simmer that inclusive practices were something we wanted to pay a lot of attention to as we improve our culture district-wide,” Ramsey said. “Unified Bocce is just kind of icing on the cake. We do a lot to make sure that all means all in our district. These student-athletes have come together to work together and to make it all the way through multiple levels of play.”

Ramsey that the outcome has been even better than the district could have anticipated.

“We are really starting to see a tremendous change in how they interact within the school system and outside the school system. We’re starting to see them become friends with each other and do activities together that we didn’t anticipate. It’s pretty exciting for public education and the St. Marys Area School District.

“It’s not only a positive for our district, it’s a positive for a whole community, and I would say all schools in general. We really try to promote the idea of appreciation for all, and this is a way for all of our students to come together.”

Ramsey said the community has really taken to the team and its accomplishments.

“We’re seeing that it’s exciting,” Ramsey said. “Our fans are seeing that it’s exciting. We brought a full fan bus to not only our regionals but also our state championship here. It’s really bringing everybody together. It’s a win-win for all.”

Members of the team include Patrick Blessel, Vinnie Lenze, Wyatt Saline, Gianna Surra, Kara Hanslovam Giovani Saraceno, Elijah Rippey, and Jesse Greishaw. The Dutch are coached by Mollie Anzinger and Sam Zimmerman.


NOTES – Harbor Creek took sixth in the state … All eight teams received their medals from members of the PIAA staff, including executive director Robert Lombardi … St. Marys will have a state championship trophy to display in its trophy case.

Harbor Creek took sixth in the state. Photo by Chris Rossetti


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