Special Olympics Alberta and ASAA hold first ever unified track event

June 17, 2016 by  
Filed under Provincial and Territorial News

Special Olympics Alberta and ASAA hold first ever unified track event at Edmonton’s Foote Field

Edmonton’s Foote Field was packed to capacity this past weekend as the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association (ASAA) hosted more than 1,100 high school athletes for the 2016 Provincial Track and Field Championships.

Over the two-day competition students competed in a plethora of events, including hurdle races, long jumps, high jumps, 100m runs, and more. But among all the fun and excitement there was another type of race going on: a unified race.

“I’m really excited to see what these kids can do,” said Kent Campbell, head coach at Medicine Hat High School.

Campbell led his team of Medicine Hat Mohawks in a 4x50m shuttle relay race against the Cochrane Cobras in the first ever unified track event. Unified events pair individuals with and without intellectual disabilities in an effort to create an inclusive environment through the power of sport.

“We have two athletes who are part of our intellectual category and two other athletes who are part of our team as well,” Campbell said. “Hopefully we can do this again in the future because these kids are really amped up.”

The race kicked off just before 3 p.m. as hundreds of parents, volunteers, and students cheered from the crowded bandstands. The Mohawks and the Cobras were dead even for the first three handoffs, but there was no stopping Sinjin Sopein of Medicine Hat, who took off at lightning speed to secure the Mohawks’ victory.

Shanna Kurylo, program coordinator of Unified Sports with the ASAA, said the goal of this year’s event is exposure to the Special Olympics Unified Sports program.

“It’s the first event of its kind, and we’re going to build off it for next year,” she said. “We send out tons of literature, but until you actually see it, people aren’t going to grasp it and see how important it is.”

Kurylo said the response thus far has been very positive and people are excited about getting involved in future events.

“The Unified Sports campaign will mobilize and inspire youth across the world to play and ultimately live unified and shape the world to one of respect and acceptance,” said Kurylo.

Campbell said he loves what the unified campaign is trying to accomplish and hopes his team can continue to participate in similar events in the years to come.

“The biggest thing about this is it’s building a great community,” he said. “We’re all about community at ‘Hat High. The community that we’re creating with students is very inclusive. Events like this are huge for the students, coaches, parents, and the community alike.”

Special Olympics has a unified strategy to bring people with and without intellectual disabilities together because when you connect athletes with others, hearts and minds are open and misunderstanding and negative attitudes disappear.

This season’s final unified event will be a basketball jamboree held Friday, June 10 at University of Calgary Kinesiology Complex from 10 a.m. to noon.

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