ORR High’s unified track team competes for the first time

Apr 10, 2019

WAREHAM — Old Rochester Regional High School and Wareham High School met on April 10 for a track meet without places, competition or prizes. 

Wareham’s unified track team and Old Rochester Regional’s newly-formed unified team both have a mix of special needs and non-special needs students. 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 the meet, smiles, encouragement and high fives take the place of traditional places or awards. The only scores being tracked are each teammate’s personal best score. Regardless of which team students were on, everyone cheered for each other. 

The coach for the Old Rochester Regional High School unified track team, Matthew Houde, said this was the first meet for ORR’s unified track team.

“It’s been educational as we kind of get our feet wet. We’re hoping to learn as much as we can this time around and hopefully be able to take some of that back to Old Rochester,” said Houde.

Both teams were divided into heats and had three field events; javelin throwing, shot put throwing 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. 

Houde said by combining the general education and special education students as one team, more students can have the opportunity to participate in track regardless of special needs status. 

“It gives everybody a chance to be included and also for our general education students to also participate with the other students,” said Houde.

ORR’s unified track team is comprised of four special needs students and one partner student while Wareham’s team has 17 students. Houde said ORR High School will have four meets this season and is planning to host a unified track team meet later in the year.

Kashner said this will be the third season of Wareham High School’s unified track team.

She is pleased to see ORR becoming a part of the unified track program. “The fact that Old Rochester is getting in on the mix is great, especially for the local aspect of it,” said Kashner, “the program keeps growing and growing so that’s really cool.”