Four Chester High School students recently competed in the Illinois Special Olympics Bowling Tournament. Three of the four advanced to the sectional tournament, while one made it all the way to the state finals.
The Yellow Jacket bowling team consisted of Jeffrey Dobyns, Jessica Penford, Amber Essman and Austin Schweizer and was coached by Michelle Justinen, Chester High School special education teacher.
She was assisted by Gwynne Jacobsen. Since Chester does not have a bowling alley, the team practiced at the Steeleville American Legion on certain school days.
"We did not really get to practice very much due to logistics, but the kids learned enough to compete and had a great time in the process," Justinen said.
The tournament began last March with the regional tournament held at Carterville. All four Chester bowlers had a good time and advanced to the sectional tournament, but only three decided to move on to the next level.
Austin Schweizer was busy with other plans and activities and opted to not participate. Jeffrey Dobyns, Jessica Penford and Amber Essman did move on to represent CHS at sectionals at Fairview Heights on November 5.
All three Chester bowlers did well. Dobyns earned a first place rating, with Penford taking second place and Essman third.
By finishing first, Dobyns qualified to advance to the state tournament, which was held in Peoria on December 2. Jeffrey and his mother, Shannon Dobyns, were accompanied to Peoria by Justinen and Jacobsen
"I think it was Jeffrey's first time away," Justinen said. "We stayed at Motel 6 in Peoria Friday night, December 1.
"His favorite part of that night was getting to eat at Burger King. We also ate at McDonalds. He really had a great time during the whole experience."
The state finals took place the next day on December 2. Dobyns had to battle against the best bowlers in the state and earned fourth place and a ribbon to match his finish.
"I was really proud of all four of my bowlers," Justinen said. "It was a very positive event for them all.
"Austin did qualify to advance to the sectional tournament, but he decided on his own not to take part due to other interests. Jeffrey, Jessica and Amber had a great time and enjoyed the entire experience."