High School Sports

Unified track meet: ‘special need does not mean you need to sit on the outside’

‘Never give up, everyday’: area high schools, Special Olympics team up for unified track and field

Indian Land and Nation Ford high schools' unified track and field teams met Thursday in Indian Land with plenty of cheering and supportive fans. The unified team is part of South Carolina Special Olympics unified sports program.
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Indian Land and Nation Ford high schools' unified track and field teams met Thursday in Indian Land with plenty of cheering and supportive fans. The unified team is part of South Carolina Special Olympics unified sports program.

“Never give up, everyday!” Michael Day yelled before his race.

Dozens of fans cheered for him and athletes from the Indian Land — Day’s team — and Nation Ford high schools’ unified track and field teams in Indian Land Thursday.

The teams are part of the Special Olympics of South Carolina’s unified sports track and field program. Athletes with intellectual disabilities are paired with athletes without disabilities, called partners, according to the Special Olympics of South Carolina website.

At Thursday’s meet in Indian Land, the athletes from opposing teams weren’t trying to “one up” each other to win the race. They cheered each other on, even offering to show each other how to do the sport.

“Unified is bringing everyone together,” said Indian Land’s unified track and field team coach Tal Horton. “Just because you may have a disability or special need does not mean you need to sit on the outside.”

Horton said the students are very supported by their peers. Students, parents and teachers showed up to the meet with hand-made signs to show support.

The athletes beamed with pride as they participated in the shot put — some of the shots creating “wows” and whistles from the crowd as the ball soared into the field.

The athletes never complain, Horton said. Neither do their partners.

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