Unified track begins their second year of competing


Unified Track is a sport that allows kids with special needs to compete along with classmates who help encourage them. GHS has had a Unified Track team for three years, but they have only competed for the last two years because of COVID.

“Unified Track is partnered with the Special Olympics to give students with severe disabilities, cognitive disabilities, or any student with an I.E.P the chance to compete in an IHSAA sport We wanted to implement something new here and give everyone the chance to participate in an athletic sport,” Coach Sara Cannaday said.

Training started off in the gym to learn the events before heading to the track.

“We don’t start outside. We always start inside, and we warm up in the gym. Our very first practice we started with leap frog jumps to give them the idea that they are going to have to jump at the end, and then we added the running part later,” junior Paige Spate said.

To train for his long jump, junior Calveon Dulaney sets goals for himself to jump as far as he can.

“We start in the gym and practice jumping first from just standing, and then we added the running into it. I usually practice at home by setting a certain point on the sidewalk and trying to jump as far and I can. I mark that jump and then try again to see if I can go past that spot to make a goal for myself,” Dulaney said.

The team practices one field event a day to work on form and safety.

“For shot-put, we practice like where to stand and when we want to throw. Sometimes, we count down to get them to throw the shot-put at the right time. We also teach them to walk off the right way,” Coach Cannaday said.

Working on the events lets the coaches see who is comfortable with different events.

“At the beginning of practices, I have everyone try everything to see who is comfortable with doing what,” Coach Cannaday said.

By having all of the kids try each event, they know how to work with their teammates and give advice.

“I don’t do shot-put, but I can say that it takes posture to get good distance. The better your form is, the farther you get the shot-put,” Dulaney said.

Freshman Chloe Vitatoe understands the need to practice relays and shot-put because of safety.

“We practice the relay transitions a lot because it is something harder to get the hang of. We also work on our throwing form a lot for shot-put so that no one gets hurt,” Vitatoe said.

The practices are all about self-improvement to compete better and to understand all of the rules.

“We usually stretch before we actually start practice. We do a lot of running and try to improve ourselves with team building. We practice the transitions with the relays and trying to follow the rules,” Dulaney said.

The warm-up and instruction for the practices are a big part of improving their performance.

“We always do a warm up lap after stretching to prepare for meets. You can’t just throw the shot-put like a baseball, so we practice our form so that we can throw it more like a football with our arm up,” senior Dave Johnson said.

Once the team reaches the track, they work with the kids to get them used to doing their events and following certain rules.

“We also practice long jump by making sure our feet don’t pass a specific point. A lot of them don’t like the texture of sand so we try and get them warmed up to the sand and teaching them to jump into the sand before we put in the running part,” Spate said.

The team competes in groups so that each runner has a buddy to help encourage them and help if needed.

“Before meets we get into our different groups and make sure people know who can give more support if needed,” Coach Cannaday said.

The helpers can join Unified Track if they are not a part of varsity or junior varsity track. They join to help the runners.

“I think it is fun to see the kids be a part of something and not just watch their friends. It is nice to see them get cheered on and stuff,” Spate said.

Being a part of Unified Track allows the kids to be able to earn varsity letters and seniors can get senior banners.

“I like hearing the kids get excited about getting varsity letters and things. I like that this gives them a chance to get that,” Vitatoe said.

The runners choose to join Unified Track to be a part of a team and make good on the promises that they make to their fellow teammates.

“I made a promise, and I plan to keep it. I want to help us make it to State this year because we were so close last year. I plan to make it this time,” Dulaney said.