More than a Track: The Millers unified track team loves their sport and each other

Maria Celis and Lance Engelman

Unified Track is a sport where there is  a balance between participants with intellectual disabilities and participants without them. These athletes also say that the NHS unified track team is a team where new friends can be made and everyone can help each other achieve their athletic goals, whether that’s in long jump, running, or throwing. For many, joining this sport can be a change in comparison to the other track teams and sports at NHS. The Unified Track team isn’t competing to see who makes it to the finish line first. They compete to help each other pass the finish line. 

Blake Koven is a Junior at NHS and he has been in unified track for two years, he says, “I didn’t have a great middle school track experience but tried unified anyways, and it’s been one of the best decisions of my life.”

Koven says that he joined Unified Track because of the community that it builds. 

“The unified track team is more than a team, we’re like a family” To him, this team is more than just a group of people that were put together. They are something more: a family.

Junior Abby Bozell, who has been a part of unified track since her sophomore year, has also had a positive experience on the team

“I like how they’re pushing you to be better,” said Bozell, “Like jumping over 15 hurdles every single day or just working at your own pace.” 

Becoming a better athlete and strengthening each other is a very important part of any sport. This allows for the team to come together and be the best they can be. Senior Abby Pittman agrees and says that it is a supportive community. 

“My favorite thing about unified is the community, the team is always so supportive and caring of each other and always works to support and cheer on all athletes, even the ones from other schools.” 

For some members, this sport can inspire them to be supportive and lend a helping hand. The members believe that the relationships it creates can bring an everlasting joy to all its athletes.

“My favorite thing about unified track is knowing what kind of an impact you’re making on these kids,” said Koven. “There’s been instances where some of them will call us partners their best friends, which is just super heart warming and feels super rewarding.” 

Getting to know the different kinds of personalities and perspectives from their peers with disabilities around the school can have a positive effect on the runners. Not only are they doing the sport they love, but step by step, making a change in the community.

 “I am so proud to be a member of a program as fantastic as this and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The team is full of so much talent, but even if it wasn’t I would still consider it the greatest team ever put together.” said Pittman.

Everyone’s potential is appreciated by the team and for them, everyday is a learning and nurturing experience in Unified. Everyone is there for each other and ready to make sacrifices. “Us partners are expected to not just encourage and motivate one athlete, but the whole team,” said Koven. 

A way for all of the players to get to know each other and participate is to work with everyone on the team, rather than being assigned a partner. With this way they can all work together and create bonds with one another, as well as getting different kinds of advice from different players so they can perform better on the track. 

     “Sports are such a unique and important thing because it does not matter how fast you run or how far you can jump or throw,” said Pittman. “The important part is that you were given the chance to try, and that you put in work to do so. The unified program has given me so much joy and support and I hope I have supported them in return. ” 

For teammates, the goals they achieve and friends they make is so rewarding and they say that it teaches them that having a good time is more important than being the best on the team. 

“We all love each other, and want to see each other succeed,” said Koven.