The Jefferson Township High School (JTHS) track team went up against about 90 competitors on six other teams from all around Morris County. The second annual Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Unified Track and Field Relay was held on Wednesday, May 24, on Jefferson’s home turf.
A main focus of the Unified Relay is to help students with disabilities (“buddies”) build friendships with classmates they may not tend to otherwise know in high school. Throughout the week leading up to the event, Unified team members wore their gear and promoted the meet.
The best part was seeing friendships grow between the buddies and other athletes. “You cannot find anything like this without athletics,” athletic director William Koch told The Jefferson Chronicle. “It teaches you more than you learn in the classroom.”
On the meet day, athletes walking in were welcomed with open arms by many other athletes from around the school who were there to support the team. When the time came, everybody performed great. The competition was impeccable, as every race was close.
From the first fire of the gun, the meet was out to a hot start with the 4×200 relay as Vernon finished in first with a time of 2:20.20 and Jefferson in second with a time of 2:20.23. Once each of the four heats of relays was finished, the group moved on to field events.
One of the buddies, Jake Luker, shared his thoughts on the sport with The Chronicle. “It is fun, gets me exercise, gets me stronger, and gives me an opportunity to make new friends,” he said.
“I think [Unified track] is awesome,” added JTHS teacher Kaitlyn Brueno. “The buddies and athletes hang out in the hallways. There are true friendships and bonds growing. It’s incredible.”
It is absolutely amazing to see our school system running a program like the Unified Track and Field Relay – unifying many lifelong friendships that are on the horizon.