Unified Takes on Track


Michelle Swenson

The Unified track team competed in a track meet on Sunday May 23rd at Breck high school.

Orono High School Unified Club has put together a team of Unified athletics and partners for the Track and Field Meet that the Special Olympics put on at The Breck High School.
With different schools competing in the track and field meet, Orono Unified participated in the 100 meters, long jump and softball shot put. According to the Athletics Sports Rules of Special Olympics, The event commands for the starter shall be “on your mark”, “set”, and when all competitors are steady, the gun shall be fired. All starters shall be given his/her best effects in the race by:
1. Ample time to settle down after taking their mark. 2. Starting the sequence over if any runner is off-balance. 3. Not hold the runners too long after the set command.
According to the Special Olympics Rules, “For the rules in the long jump event, the athlete must be able to jump at least 1 meter from the takeoff board to the sandpit.” And in the softball shot put a legal put shot must be made from within the circle.
The first-ever Special Olympics Games was in 2006 at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa with twelve sports in the competition. There were over three thousand athletes, eight thousand volunteers and more than twelve thousand family members in the area for the games. According to The USA National Games, “Aquatics, 300 athletes, representing 48 states in the swimming events at the beautiful Beyer Hall Pool”, “Basketball, Forty-one teams participated in the basketball competition.” And that was just the start of it. Later in the week, more athletes competed in Bocce, Bowling, Golf, Gymnastics, Motor Activities, Powerlifting, Soccer, Softball, Track and Field, Tennis and Volleyball.
“In Unified at Our School we’re mainly sports-based, a lot of our personal interactions are through sports; like we have basketball, flag football, bowling, and dance. It’s one way to interact and include others in something they all like playing,” Delaney Whitney said.
According to the USA National Games, “The community of Ames, I was, lived up to the expectations that won them the bid for the Games. The passion and excitement for the athletes of the Special Olympics were apparent everywhere one went.” Now Orono Unified is following that expectation with the Student of Orono Coaching the athletes in the Games they play over the years.
With the Track on Sunday, May 23rd, the practice was going pretty well with only having two practice before the big competition.
“I am ready for the Track Meet!” Jenna Perkins said.
One of the goals of the coaches is, “ Just to have fun, include others, and love the sport they are participating in so they come back the next years coming,” coach Freya Clifford said.
Before the competition started on Sunday, the goals and missions the students in Unified wanted to see achieved in the race.
“Obviously, the main goal is definitely to have fun and make sure that they’re having a good time. Making sure they’re interacting with others is a big thing. I think the social aspect of Unified is really important,” Whitney said.
The first sport Orono High School had was in the 2012-2013 school year, but the club was not established until the 2015-2016 school year by a student and a teacher named Michelle Swenson. Mrs. Swenson is not a unified coach to the athletes, she is behind the scenes with a lot of paperwork and working hard to get the athletes involved in sports they want to do, like the track meet.
“Everyone has fun I think. I think the coaches, the football players that are coaches, love to coach the athletes because they get that aspect of it and want to coach the unified athletes,” Swenson said.
When the track meet finished there event there were only six schools in the competition, Orono Unified club was the only high school at the meet, but the rest of the schools were community schools. With Orono Unified, all sports are coached by a senior student-athlete in that sport they are practicing for. For the Track Meet at Break High school, Clifford and Ellie Nordie were the coaches for the Orono high school Unified team at the meet.

One of the goals as a Unified club was to have an in-person sport to play before the year was over. The track meet was the athletes’ chance to participate in the meet in person with other schools.
“Parents and friends were allowed to come to the meet, but they had to stay in the bleachers,” Clifford said.
Not only were the athletes happy with it, but the parents and fans were there too and happy to see them participate again in-person.