Dual track and field meets rarely are as significant as the one taking place today at Indian Creek High School.
In a first for a Johnson County school, the Braves will field a unified track team when their boys and girls squads host Edgewood.
Three high school student-athletes who have been diagnosed with special needs will be running, jumping and high-fiving their Indian Creek teammates against the Mustangs.
Special needs athletes can compete in any combination of five events: shot put, standing long jump, 100-meter dash, 400-meter dash and the 400 relay.
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Their time or distance is combined with that of a general education Indian Creek teammate in an attempt to defeat their opponents.
As an example, the 400-meter dash time of sophomore Matthew Hall in his heat will be added to the time of the Braves’ Maddy Leatherman in her heat. Senior Landon Scott’s best effort in the shot put will be added to how much ground Nick Clevenger covers with his top effort.
Times and distances will be compared to those of Edgewood’s unified team in order to determine placings.
Indian Creek now joins Roncalli, Perry Meridian and Franklin Central as area schools fielding a unified track and field team.
Roncalli made its unified track debut earlier this month with three meets in a span of six days.
“We’ve talked about doing this for about a year-and-a-half now,” Indian Creek athletics director Justin Ray said. “It’s an opportunity for those kids to compete and have the opportunities that our other track and field kids would have.”
Today’s meet will allow four Indian Creek Middle School students diagnosed with special needs to compete, as well.
Kevin Aders, co-coordinator of Special Olympics Johnson County, said the athletic and social opportunities presented to special needs and general education students are what make unified events so special.
He should know.
The youngest of Kevin and Lisa Aders’ four children, eighth-grader Gabby Aders, is going to be competing in the 100-meter dash, standing long jump and 400 relay.
“As a parent, it’s about the opportunity of having my daughter compete with her classmates and teammates,” Kevin Aders said. “Gabby competes in Special Olympics, and it’s special every time.
“This will be moving because it’s at her school in front of her peers. It’s going to be a big deal.”
Sharon Hogue, who is winding down her 15th year as special education teacher at Indian Creek and 34th overall, concurs.
Though not a parent of any of the seven special needs track competitors, she knows having unified track and field meets is a triumph all its own.
“It’s an after-school event where they’re doing what the other kids do. And my kids … they give 180 percent,” Hogue said. “It’s good for everybody. The community, the students and their families.”
Other Indian Creek High School general education students taking part in the unified competition are Jenis Seldhake and Keelie Satter. For middle school events it’s Sam Deppe, Olivia Lawson and Max Murr.
Indian Creek students diagnosed with special needs scheduled to take part in today’s meet against Edgewood:
Landon Scott, senior: shot put and long jump
Matthew Hall, sophomore: 100, 400 and long jump
Lilly DeHart, freshman: 100, 400 relay, long jump
Gabby Aders, eighth grade: 100, 400 relay, long jump
Rachel Anderson, eighth grade: 100, 400 relay, long jump
Jeremiah Payton, eighth grade: 100, 400 relay, long jump
Logan Ortiz, seventh grade: shot put and long jump