EULA, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Receiving a letter jacket for a high school athlete is a day they’ll never forget. But for the first time in Eula, three young men competing in Special Olympics events received theirs. 

Pure joy rang through the cafeteria last week as Eula High School coaches delivered letterman jackets to their deserving athletes. However, the best reaction came from Lane Bryce, a Special Olympics athlete, who proudly sported his letterman jacket. Bryce, smiling from ear-to-ear, strutted around the cafeteria, approaching his peers, high-fiving friends, and hugging classmates as they oohed and awed over his new leather. See his reaction below:

Lane Bryce, as well as Ethan and Landon Timms, all received their letter jackets from the school after competing in the State Unified Special Olympics powerlifting and regionally in Unified Interscholastic Track and Field. These three young men became the first-ever Special Olympic athletes in Eula ISD history to receive the honor.

Eula ISD became a Unified Champion School (UCS), meaning they are allowed to participate in Unified sports sanctioned by the UIL just last year. Becoming a UCS means sticking to a three-component model creating inclusive youth leadership, unified sports and activities, as well as having whole school engagement.

However, even in such a short period of time, Bryce and the Timms have stood above the rest competitively, meeting the necessary requirements to receive their letter jackets.

“Practicing took a little bit, but after all that, it was pretty good,” Landon Timms said. “You go to competitions and try to do your best. That’s all you can do.”

Competing in at least three area competitions and advancing to the regional or state levels in any competition were the two requirements, and they met those with flying colors. Landon told KTAB/KRBC he raised his powerlift weight from 158 pounds to 180 pounds in just one year of competition.

However, Special Olympics coach Kami Dodds said their success didn’t come easy for her star athletes.

“They were quiet, they sat by themselves, they talked to themselves, but didn’t interact with their peers,” recalled Dodds.

Through weeks of training, many practices, and getting to know their ‘buddies,’ the other Eula ISD athletes helped them train. Then, they began to find their competitive spirits.

“They’ve really figured out what it is to dig deep inside themselves and find a drive they never knew they had, which will help them in all aspects of their lives,” Dodds said.

That includes the eight weeks of training leading up to events, as well as in the classroom, Dodds told KTAB.KRBC. She went on to brag about these young men’s growth and how much confidence they’ve built in such a short period of time.

“Now, they’re earning letterman jackets and they went from someone you didn’t see on campus to someone on campus,” Dodds said with an eager smile. “They’re running with the big dogs.” 

Dodds was able to instill confidence in her young athletes. Bryce even said he is as fast as a “high-speed universal train” and anxiously awaiting their next competition.

Bryce and the Timms are just the beginning of Eula ISD’s success, as two more Special Olympics athletes are expected to earn their letter jackets soon. One athlete is waiting to be measured for their jacket when they come in this spring, and the other is one area competition away from earning their jacket.

The Unified Pirate Crew will compete in the Area 14 Unified Interscholastic Track and Field Meet at Shotwell Annex starting at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, March 30. They aim to set new personal records and qualify for the regional meet at Lubbock Christian University on April 19.