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The Yankee Express

Unified Track is off to the races

Lizzie Andrews does the long jump.

Northbridge High School’s Special Olympics Unified Track team has had three meets this year with one more on the way. Northbridge has been doing unified sports since the Spring of 2019. Although it began with track it has expanded to basketball as well. This year’s team has 11 athletes who participate in the 100 meter, 400 meter, and 4x100 meter as well as shot put, javelin and long jump. 
This is head coach Stevie Bentley’s first season, “I can barely run for 60 seconds without getting winded so I never thought in a million years I would be a track coach but it has been incredible to watch all of these kids compete and support each other. They are a fabulous crew of kids.” 
Junior Kayla Kimishlian said her favorite thing about unified is “walking in and seeing the smiles on everyone’s face!” 
Athletic director Jeff Kozik said his favorite part is the, “comradery and mutual respect between the teams during meets. The benefits of the unified programs for both our athletes as well as the entire school community cannot be understated. It helps to foster an inclusive environment where our athletes can showcase their skills while at the same time developing compassion and understanding with our partners. The pure joy exhibited at the meets as well as the bonds created between our athletes is truly an amazing thing to witness and I am left feeling uplifted every time. In only a few short years, I have seen the positive impact our unified teams have had on our school and I am excited to see how we can expand the reach of these programs in the future.” 

                       Colin Tognazzi finishes the 400 meter by running to his mom.

Post grad athlete Sean Beckman adds, “I like the long jump best of all and also really like running the 400. I like doing track with my friends”. 
Ninth grader Lilly Brooks stated, “it’s cool how you can have a completely different relationship with everyone… my favorite event is long jump because everyone is so excited to do it.” 
Assistant coach Sheena Sanchez said, “I decided to coach because I truly enjoy being a part of our school community. I wanted to assist in allowing students to participate in extracurricular opportunities and I love watching those smiles as they run, jump and throw! At track my favorite thing is to watch our athletes throw the Javelin, their sense of pride is so amazing to see.” 
Ninth grader Lizzie Andrews said, “My friends on the bus [is my favorite part]. It’s so fun. I love jumping, throwing and racing. My family comes to see me win. I am proud of my team.” 
Post grad Tom Dowd said, “I like Track because I like to run and I am really fast at running!! I am good at doing the long jump, and the hundred meter dash. One time I won the hundred meter dash and I felt happy about it. I like hanging out with my friends on the track.” 
Junior Abby Fraser said, “I knew it would be the happiest sport I ever played and it is and everyone is so supportive. My favorite part is when the athletes finish their event and they have the biggest smiles on their faces.” 
Classmate Molly Consigli, replied with, “I joined unified basketball and it was a lot of fun so I wanted to keep doing unified.” 
Mary Boucher, a 2019 NHS graduate and former team mate, has been helping. She says, “my favorite part of unified is seeing the friendships that form between the athletes and their buddies. These friendships last a lifetime and it’s amazing watching them start and continue growing. I continue to be a part of unified because I was a part of the first team that our school had and it changed my life in more ways than I could ever explain. Unified events make me so happy and seeing those kids smile is an indescribable feeling that makes it so I would never want to leave. Unified taught me one of the most important lessons of my life, which is that disability does not equal inability. So many people look down on this community and fail to recognize the things they can do because they are too focused on what they can’t. I have become a much more accepting and inclusive person since starting unified.”