Unified Track & Field

“NPHS Girls LAX LOVES Unified Track” hung on the bleachers at the Unified Track Meet on Thursday, May 6. Students, coaches, and parents, as well as some of the girl’s lacrosse team all came out to support participants as they raced down the track.

North Point athletes competed against McDonough and La Plata. The spirit, however, was not centered on competition, but instead it focused on motivation and encouragement. “The kids work with each other instead of against each other,” said Lauryn Coombs (’11).

The team consisted of athletes of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. Students also participate by being helpers, timers and line keepers. Many also ran alongside the track to motivate the runners. “It’s a great way for everyone, disabled or not, to have an equal opportunity to compete,” added Henry Ponergalin (’13), a helper who plans on continuing with the program every year until he graduates.

This has been North Point’s second year as a pilot school for the program started by Ms. Cheny-Heiser and Mr. Serpone through a grant offered by the Special Olympics Maryland. Unified Track is a program in which athletes with or without disabilities compete on the same team. “We have a lot of great kids,” she remarked at the will and determination of the runners. “With all the returning athletes, we really hope this grows into a bigger program.”

Cheny-Heiser is looking to expand the program into winter season; possibly making swimming and basketball available to students. “So that they can not only participate in the spring, but also during fall and winter sports.”

Such participation creates a “Healthy Environment,” as Coombs would say. “My mother works with special needs children so it creates a healthy environment. [They] feel a part of something and everyone is working for the same goal.”

At the end of the meet, everyone got a medal. McDonough won first place, La Plata won second, and North Point won third. Even with the loss, it was “Great to see students working together,” says Mrs. Akins. “Parents, students, and coaches looked like they were having a great time. That kind of togetherness is a perfect example of what makes North Point a great place.”

“It’s great to see the team work done through the Unified Track Team,” says helper, Carly Robertson (’13). It becomes apparent that everybody does it because they love the rewarding experience; whether they win first place or last place.

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