The third annual Unified Track and Field Relay will bring together athletes of all ability levels to compete in a friendly competition on Thursday, May 23, at Jefferson Township High School (1010 Weldon Road).
“This was started because we needed something that allowed all ability levels to experience the team aspect,” said high school transition coordinator and coach Nicole Wildermuth. Referencing Special Olympics, she noted that an important facet of the event is its promotion of “a socially inclusive school climate where acceptance, respect, and human dignity for all students are the norm.” She added that since the start of Unified Track, students are socializing more in the hallways with those they otherwise might not have known.
The Jefferson team has expanded every year with increasing student interest, said Wildermuth, and the many volunteer coaches include both general and special education teachers. The season begins in September with monthly meetings to create bonds through team-building activities. Actual weekly after-school practices begin in March.
The meet has grown as well, with more than 160 athletes and buddies competing this year from nine schools: Boonton, Jefferson, Morristown, Mount Olive, Newton, Parsippany High, Parsippany Hills, Pequannock, and Vernon.
A new feature is a community partnership with Pass It Along, a nonprofit organization that helps teens to become confident, resilient, and compassionate through volunteerism, leadership, and self-discovery. The teen volunteers will help run activities throughout the meet. Other sponsoring organizations are Special Olympics of New Jersey and the New Jersey Education Association, both of which provided grant funds.
Wildermuth expressed appreciation for support from the high school, especially principal Dr. Timothy Plotts and athletic director Bill Koch. She added that the meet is run by staff volunteers, and “students love seeing their teachers, counselors, and administrators there to support them.” In addition to Wildermuth, this year’s Unified Track and Field coaches are Kaitlyn Bruneo, Jodie Ciaraffo, Ashley Dispenziere, Jenn Kraljevich, Megan Seader, Kim Serzan, and Sue Tordoff.
The community is encouraged to come out and support the student athletes, who will check in and begin warming up at 3:00. The meet, which begins at 4:00, includes 4x100M and 4x200M relays, long jump, shot put, and javelin. An awards ceremony will take place at 6:00, followed by a celebration including music and food available for purchase. The rain date is Wednesday, May 29.
For more information, click here or contact Wildermuth at firstname.lastname@example.org or 973-697-3535 x5829.