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Unified Track and Field provides all athletes Sectional competition

BREMEN, Ind. - For track and field athletes throughout the state of Indiana, the past week has been one filled with the pressures of Sectional competition.

But Saturday, pressure was the furthest thing from the minds of Unified athletes taking the stage.

“It’s one of the most pleasurable events that we have,” said Troy Holmes, athletic director of Bremen Senior High School which hosted 14 schools for the event.

Bremen was one of eight sites around the state hosting Sectionals on Saturday, giving student-athletes with developmental or intellectual challenges to showcase their talents.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to host three different times and every year it’s gotten bigger and better," said Holmes. "Seeing 14 schools here with all these student-athletes, it’s really inspiring.”

Offering field events like the long jump and shot put to track events including relays and the 100-meter dash, Holmes said there was a lengthy list of responsibilities for a host school. Still, that didn't deter Bremen from jumping at the chance.

“It’s a lot of hard work putting on an event like this, but once it starts and you see all our student athletes, coaches, the teams, the different schools, it’s well worth it.”

Unified track and field is an IHSAA program just like any other sport fans will see throughout the year. Saturday, the organization's top official Bobby Cox even stopped in to see the impact Unified has made in just five years.

“I’m really excited about it and the numbers have continued to grow," said the commissioner. "Our efforts for inclusion for all students are continuing to flourish and we’re very happy about it.”

From schools to coaches to officials, there are so many who help make Unified what it is. 

But at the heart, it's the connection between these student-athletes and their classmates who volunteer time to ensure they all enjoy the competition together.

“I really admire them putting in the time, and working with the special needs kids," said Holmes. "They’re all just great kids. If you go up and talk to them, you immediately know where their heart’s at and it’s just very satisfying being associated with students like that."

Cox echoed those thoughts.

“It creates a better climate in our schools," he said. "It creates a feeling of inclusion. The energy continues to grow around it and more schools are getting involved.”

Elkhart Memorial's Unified track and field team took home the Sectional Championship on Saturday.

While Cox said it was exciting to see more schools joining the program, he also mentioned that another sport will be offered next school year: a flag football program coming next fall.

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