Better together

Sisters grow closer through Unified Track

Sisters, junior Mary Pfeiffer (left) and senior Lauren Pfeiffer (right) smile at each other during the long jump of the Unified Track meet on April 25. Participating on the team together has helped the sisters grow closer. (Skylar Greulich)

Standing on the track watching her teammates, senior Lauren Pfeiffer keeps track of the times for members of Unified Track. Next to her, is her sister, Mary, who has helped her through it all. During warmups, Lauren calls out activities and leads her teammates. 

Lauren has Prader-Willi syndrome, a disorder that causes learning disabilities and mild to moderate intellectual impairment. When she first started Unified Track at Roncalli, where she used to attend, she was more reserved and less apt to participate. But, over her time at SHS, Unified Track has helped her come out of her shell.

“In the beginning, she wouldn’t have been comfortable doing (leading),” Unified Track coach Jennifer Karushis said. “And now she knows she’s in charge and the others do too.”

Mary has also seen her sister blossom out of her shell and grow lively with her friends. 

“They are very outgoing with each other, which Lauren definitely did not used to be,” Mary said. 

Unified Track is a sport where students with and without special needs come together and participate in track events. It gives them an opportunity to interact with each other outside of the school setting, and it allows other students to build relationships that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible because of the separation of classes during the school day. 

Mary joined Unified Track after her sister had been involved for a few years. She joined as a way to do things with her sister and meet her classmates. During their years of participating together, that is exactly what happened. The two sisters have grown closer through the practices and cheering on their teammates. 

Their mother, Amy, loves Unified Track and the fact that her daughters have a way to do something together. The team gives them something other than family and school to talk about. And, beyond strengthening the bond between the sisters, Amy says that unified track has helped Lauren find her place at SHS.

It was very helpful for her to meet new people and she likes to cheer people on.

— Amy Pfeiffer

“It was very helpful for her to meet new people and she likes to cheer people on,” Amy said. “It was helpful for her to be in an environment that she had friends she could cheer on to do things and encourage.”

So, as long as the Pfeiffer sisters are at SHS together, they’ll be on the track, cheering for each other and growing closer all the while. The impact that Unified Track has had on Lauren’s life is undeniable, and her family couldn’t be happier to watch her, confident and in her element.

“I just really enjoy watching her do (Unified Track), because it allows her to participate,” Mary said.