By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
EDMONDS — The past two seasons have been hugely successful for the Edmonds-Woodway girls soccer team. The Warriors won the 3A state championship in 2014 and placed third in 2015.
The Warriors’ boys team found similar success this spring. Edmonds-Woodway won the district championship and went on to a fourth-place finish at the state tournament.
So what would happen if the two teams played each other? We found out on Friday night when the boys team beat the girls team 4-0 in a friendly match for charity.
The result of the game wasn’t nearly as important as the cause the two teams were playing for. An estimated $650 was raised for the local Special Olympics.
The idea of a boys against girls game is something that has been discussed at Edmonds-Woodway for several years, but it wasn’t until junior Kia Mackey of the girls team and junior Lucas Teklemariam of the boys team took on the challenge putting the game on as a CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) project for school that it became a reality. The CAS project is required of students involved in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Edmonds-Woodway.
Mackey got the idea from some of her club teammates, which had done something similar in the past to raise money for their soccer programs. Mackey approached Bill LeCompte, the girls coach at Edmonds-Woodway, with the idea. Mackey said LeCompte was supportive of the idea, but made one suggestion — playing the game to raise money for a charity rather than raising money for the Warriors’ soccer programs.
Mackey liked the idea and already had a charity in mind — the local Special Olympics.
“The Special Olympics has kind of been a charity close to me in a lot of way because my mom is a Special Education teacher, so she’s been into the Special Olympics,” Mackey said. “I’ve seen it on TV and I think it’s a really cool opportunity for kids to be a part of Special Olympics. I just feel that that program is really cool and it deserves our support as a school and as a community.”
Mackey, Teklemariam, LeCompte and boys coach Tony Gilman would all like to see the event continue on an annual basis and Mackey would like it to continue to benefit the Special Olympics.
Both coaches were proud of their players putting in the work to make sure that the game was able to take place.
“It’s something we’ve kicked around for the past couple of years that maybe we should do something like this and the plus is that Lucas and Kia both took the bull by the horns, so to speak, and decided to get with it,” Gilman said. “They pretty much put it together. It’s the first time and we’re looking forward to it being fun, for starters, and something that we’re not just going to do one time, but something we do every year.”
Initially, Mackey saw putting the game together as just something to help out the community, but when she realized it would make a good CAS project, she decided to go that direction. She enlisted the help of her friend Teklemariam of the boys team, who also needed a CAS project.
Teklemariam didn’t have the same personal connection to the Special Olympics that Mackey did, but after doing some research he quickly jumped on board.
“After looking at what their mission was, doing some research and (learning) some background information, I thought it was really cool what their mission was and how they try to incorporate all people, no matter who you are and try to get people involved in a sport,” Teklemariam said. “It’s just brings people together.”
Teklemariam was referring to the unified sports branch of the Special Olympics. Unified sports bring athletes with intellectual disabilities together with unified partners, which is someone without an intellectual disability, to compete of the same field. More than 200 schools in the state now have a unified sports team.
Joe Hampson, the Vice President of Sports and Community Outreach for Special Olympics Washington, spoke at halftime about the importance of unified sports and introduced several Unified competitors as well as the Edmonds-Woodway Unified cheer team.
Hampson said students like Mackey and Teklemariam are a big reason the unified program has grown so much in the past few years.
“It’s outstanding,” Hampson said. “The youth are the agents of change. We’re seeing it all across the state in nearly 200 schools. There is a Kia and a Lucas in most of those schools. To me, that’s impressive because you’re seeing a culture change. You’re seeing things change with the presence of unified sports in schools. You’re seeing barriers broken down. You’re seeing the culture change in the hallways and in the cafeteria. You’re seeing friendships built. You’re seeing those with intellectual disabilities being accepted in the classrooms and the mainstream. It’s truly phenomenal to see what’s happening at these schools and it’s because of kids like Kia and Lucas.”
For Mackey and Teklemariam, putting the event together was a lot of work, but both were happy with the results after the game.
“It was pretty cool to see it all come together,” Mackey said. “At first, it was just an idea and we were like, ‘this would be a cool thing to do.’ But then actually coming here and playing in the game and having it all work out, it was really exciting to see an idea come to reality.”
Teklemariam took some inspiration from the athletes he was playing to help.
“I thought it was pretty cool to hear some of the stories of the unified athletes at halftime,” he said. “I thought it was pretty cool to hear what they’ve been through and their positive approach to everything and how they can have a lot of fun playing soccer, just like we can.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronlommers and contact him at email@example.com.