Unified track combines heart and running

Team provides opportunity for athletes to grow

Sophomore Abel Tajonar (left) and teacher Holly Ellis (right) stretch their legs during a practice.  This is the first year that SHS has fielded a unified track team.

Madeline Steward

Sophomore Abel Tajonar (left) and teacher Holly Ellis (right) stretch their legs during a practice. This is the first year that SHS has fielded a unified track team.

Hannah Garrett, Reporter

A team that is made up of a group of different kinds of students joins together three times a week to set the same goal. This year, SHS started a unified track team that meets during the spring season for kids both with and without disabilities. This team allows a group of dedicated individuals to work together to achieve their ambitions.

Two of the team members are senior Donte Millbrook and junior Jadin Benge. Both of them really enjoy being involved in the new program.

According to Millbrook, he really wanted to join the team at SHS because he did it last year at Perry Meridian and really enjoyed it. Millbrook is one of the students on the team that has a disability, but it doesn’t stop if from going his hardest and having fun every practice, and when he competes.

“It (being involved in the program) feels good,” Millbrook said. “I really like running.”

This is Benge’s first year competing on the unified track team. According to Benge, being involved in the program is more fun than competing at a high level.

“I love helping others, and it (joining the team) seemed like a great way for a bunch of different kids to work together on a common goal,” Benge said.

According to coach Jennifer Karushis, who is also a special needs teacher at SHS, it is very similar to a regular track team. Everybody goes all out, does their best and competes like the other track teams at SHS. They mainly compete in the 100 meters, 400 meters, 4×100 meter relay, long jump and shotput.

They meet every Tuesday and Thursday for practice, and Friday is an extra day for team bonding, so the students can be comfortable around one another throughout the season. Practices normally consist of the kids starting out with stretches, which progress into other drills, just like what other athletes would do on the regular track team. They also join workouts with coach Fishel’s girls track team, so they can be included in working on things like their fastest running time, and their running form with another group that competes in the same environment.

“The idea is that we have students with disabilities, right there on the same team as students without disabilities in equal ratios every time we put them out to run something in an event,” Karushis said.

According to Karushis, she really gets a lot out of coaching the kids in this program, and she thinks the kids get a lot out of it too. She is happy that athletic director Pete Hubert came to her with this opportunity.

“This (coaching the kids) is awesome. You leave there with this huge smile on your face when you watch kids who are normally the kids that don’t get to participate in anything, blending with the kids who are at the top of all the sports, being on similar playing fields and learning pieces of it that maybe they didn’t know,” Karushis said, “Seeing them interact and include each other is
just really neat.”