The Spirit of Bay High Athletics

PANAMA CITY, Fla. - If you've attended a Bay High sporting event the last few years, changes are you've heard Alicen Warren, better known as “Ali Bug”, cheering on the Tornadoes.

All her life people have been telling Ali what she can't do. Instead of listening to them, she's decided she's going to tell everyone what they can do.

"No matter if they win or lose, I will be their number one fan," she says.

Born ten weeks premature with severe brain damage, doctors said Ali would never walk or do anything for herself. Last year she became the first gold medal winner for 10K in the history of Special Olympics Florida Summer Games.

It doesn't end on the track. She imposes her will to win on everyone, everywhere.

"She talks about 'my boys'. She refers to the football team as her boys," Bay Head Football Coach Mike Watkins says.

"I pump my boys up more than anybody has ever,” Ali Bug adds.

She attends almost every Tornado sports event. Everyone has embraced her, not as a mascot, but as a part of the team.

"She's kind of like my hype coach,” Coach Watkins says, “You know you always have to have that person to get the kids up. I'm not good at that – I'm the yeller and the screamer, she's the one that pats them on the back, gets them pumped up, and just loves on them."

"Win or lose she is there to support the girls, no matter what,” Girls Basketball Coach Dierdre Powell adds, “And she would always say – she would pat me on the back during a game when we're not doing so well 'It's going to be alright coach D. It's alright. I still love them, and I still love you. You're the best coach.'”

When sideline emotions run high, Ali Bug's spirit is contagious to fans, players, and the coaches.

"She's always wanting to tell us how great we're doing even when I know we're not doing very good, she'll tell us how awesome we are," Coach Watkins says.

"She high-fives. She pats them on the back,” Coach Powell explains, “'It's going to be okay.' The whole love that she gives these kids is amazing."

Now the teams are returning the love. Volleyball and football have recently recognized her as an honorary team member, and the county is naming her “Student of the Month”, calling her the most inspirational athlete around.

"I could not thank them enough for giving me those flowers, and just being there for me,” Ali Bug says, “I mean, it's my senior year, and they know that I've been there almost every single game."

Whether she knows it or not, she's playing an important role among all her peers.

"She bridges the gap between the special needs world out into the regular world,” Coach Powell says, “So with these kids, our kids, our basketball girls, to her peers, she closes that gap. They include her like she's one of her own."

And in the words of Alicen Warren – "As always, It's better at Bay."


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