Athletes, partners rally together at Unified meet

No team scores were kept in Tuesday’s Unified track meet, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t a competitive atmosphere at Columbus East.

The Olympians battled Columbus North and Edgewood in a fledgling sport that features Unified athletes and Unified partners competing side by side.

“I love being around the Unified athletes,” East junior Morgan Martindale said. “They’re always so happy all the time, and I love trying to encourage them. It’s really a privilege because we used to not have this, and it makes them feel like a part of something and a part of a team.”

Martindale, a three-year starter on East’s girls soccer team, ran hurdles for the Olympians her first two years. Now, she does the long jump, 100 meters and 4×100 relay — three of the five events in the Unified meets.

She works closely with Dillon Hashman, who does the long jump, 400 and 4×100 relay.

“It helps me make a lot of new friends,” Hashman said.

East’s Unified team qualified for state two years ago. This year, they have their biggest team yet with more than 50 kids.

Tuesday’s meet was the second of the season for the Olympians.

“I have a very positive outlook on how are season is going,” East coach Peggy Myers said. “We had a convocation for Unified sports, and I think that helped draw attention and interest.”

North sophomore Ryan Farrell is a Unified athlete. He does the long jump, shot put and 100.

Farrell came out for the Unified team at the suggestion of his mother.

“I like it,” Farrell said. “It was my mom’s idea. She wanted me to get a letterman’s jacket.”

Sophomore Elizabeth Dwyer partners with Farrell in the 100. She also does long jump, 400 and assists Farrell on 100.

Dwyer, who is also a football and basketball cheerleader, is doing Unified track for the first time.

“My brother has Down Syndrome, so I just wanted to do a sport with him,” Dwyer said. “I have a bunch of friends that are also in Unified, and they said it was really awesome, so I wanted to try it.”

Like East, North has its biggest team ever. Coach Daniel Ho said the Bull Dogs have 54 kids on this year’s squad.

“We actually have a great team and great talent this year,” Ho said. “We hopefully can take the team to state.”

East and North will meet again Monday at North. In that meet, team scores will be kept.

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.