Calvert County, Md. — A team that competed Thursday at the World Cheerleading Championships in Orlando had a groundbreaking performance that was far from routine. For the first time ever, Special Olympics teams are part of the competition.
Carmen Houston-Ludlum was thrilled to learn she'd get to compete on two of the teams representing the U.S.: Calvert County, Maryland Unified Poms and Hip Hop teams. They're "unified" because they combine athletes with and without intellectual disabilities.
"Being on a team is really fun and also a great experience of dancing," she said.
Head coach Gayle Watterson has run the programs for 11 years.
"They train together, they compete together, they perform together and it's probably a nice little vision of what the world should be like if we all accepted each other," Watterson said.
Unified partner Nicole Basom joined in high school five years ago. Now in college, she drives three hours each way to attend practices with her team.
"I don't see them as different. I don't see anybody on the team as different, unified partner or athlete," she said, adding that to her, they're just friends.
That's what it means to come together as a team. Shared dreams, working as one.