Running together: Unified track connects students of all abilities
Wareham High School and Old Rochester Regional Unified Track teams met for a light-hearted competition at the Wareham High track on April 10. Each team had a mix of students with and without intellectual disabilities, and the two came together with the goal of giving everyone a chance to have fun.
Both teams are a part of the Special Olympics Unified Sports program in their schools. Worldwide, Special Olympics serves 1.4 million people worldwide and 4,500 schools nationwide.
At a Unified Track meet, there is no pressure to win and no prizes — just smiles, encouragement and high fives. The only scores being tracked are each teammate’s personal best score. Regardless of which team students were on, everyone cheered for each other.
Both teams were divided into heats and had three field events; javelin throwing, shot put, and long jump. After the field events, everyone had a chance to race against each other.
According to Wareham High’s coach, Megan Kashner, every teammate qualifies for sectionals. The scores accumulated throughout the season are recorded and tracked on excel sheets. At sectionals, the top two for each heat and event get to compete in the state competition.
“The program is just growing and growing, so that’s really cool,” said Kashner, who said that about 30 area schools participate in unified track.
This year, there are 17 members on the Wareham team — both with and without disabilities. This is the third year Wareham has had a unified track team.
“For a lot of our kids, it’s the first time they’ve been on a team where they go to practice,” Kashner said. “They look forward to it. It gives them something to train for and look forward to. It’s a great first experience for many of them.”
Olivia Nascimento, a sophomore and the president of the Best Buddies club, said that unified track is a great opportunity for teammates to work hard and support each other.
"It gives everyone a chance," Nascimento said. "I think it's important for them to have their own way of showing off their talent."