DuBOIS — Student bocce players from around the region recently gathered at the PAW Center on the campus of Penn State DuBois to compete in the interscholastic unified sports bocce regional championship. Eight teams from several area schools competed for state qualification spots that were up for grabs for the top two teams.

Organized by the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania, the unified sports bocce championship is one of many unified sports that the Special Olympics offers today.

Unified sports combine approximately equal numbers of Special Olympics athletes and athletes without intellectual disabilities, who are called partners, on sports teams for training and competition.

Bocce was first played in the 18th century in Italy and has developed into a global game since that time. The game is played on many different surfaces, including natural soil and asphalt courts, with the playing area defined by court walls, which were outlined by plastic piping at the PAW Center.

For this event, games were played between two teams and each game was started with a coin flip to determine the turn order and which team would be represented by which color bocce balls. Then, the first team starts by throwing a smaller ball, often called the jack, boccino or little bocce, to mark the point where both teams are going to attempt to get closest to. Each team is then given the opportunity to throw one bocce, attempting to get as close to the smaller ball as possible. After the two initial throws, the team that is further away continues to throw one ball at a time to try and get closer than their opponents have. This continues on until both teams have thrown their four balls in each round. Score is then calculated by the team that has the closest ball to the smaller ball, add one point for each extra ball they have inside of their opponent’s closest bocce ball.

For this regional championship tournament, a time limit and points limit were in place, with a team winning if they reached the points limit before time ran out, or the team that was ahead at the end of the time limit was declared the winner.

Coming to Penn State DuBois to take part in the event were teams from Bedford, Canton, Clearfield, Harbor Creek, North Penn-Mansfield, Penn Cambria, St. Marys and Tussey Mountain.

Three courts were set up on the PAW Center floor for the eight teams that were in attendance. While the teams were competing for the spots in the state championship tournament, the ultimate goal was for everyone to have fun.

The PAW Center was packed with fans for all the teams, showing their support on every throw. This included a full student fan bus that came to the campus from St. Marys. Students worked with the school administration to arrange for the fan bus so they could come and support their fellow student athletes at this championship event.

As the games and the tournament progressed, the teams vying for the regional championship and gold medals came down to Harbor Creek and St. Marys. Both teams won their first two games of the day to not only secure their spot in the championship match, but also their spots in the upcoming state championship tournament.

When the final bocce had been rolled, St. Marys came out victorious, winning the regional championship.