Columbus North Unified track athlete Collin Booher told told fellow senior and Unified partner Nathan VanDeventer at the beginning of the season that he wanted to win a state title before he graduated.
Saturday afternoon, the Bull Dogs will have a shot at achieving that goal. The regional champions will be one of 10 teams competing in the third annual Unified Track and Field State Finals at Indiana University.
“I feel like we need to make that happen,” VanDeventer said. “I believe that we can, as long as our team comes together. If we just believe and compete to our very best, which is all you can ask to do, I think we can be pretty good over there.”
North has lost only once all season. That came when it finished second in the Borden Sectional.
The Bull Dogs bounced back Saturday to win the Bedford North Lawrence Regional.
“After we got second in sectional, I thought it was cool that we all stuck together, and we didn’t get down on ourselves and we got our personal-bests in most of our events,” said junior Unified partner Matt Boldrey. “When we first found out how the scoring went, we thought it would be a cool idea to get to state, but then as the tournament has been going on it’s been a goal to actually win state.”
Junior Unified partner Bailey Hester and Boldrey went 1-2 in both the long jump and 100 meters in the sectional, and Hester won both events in the regional. VanDeventer finished second in the regional in the 400.
Unified athlete Anthony Ashcroft, Unified partners VanDeventer and Ross Gill and Unified athlete Josh Holley teamed to win the sectional and finish third in the regional in the 4×100 relay.
“When you put all of this together, and you get first place, it’s pretty special to share with these kids,” VanDeventer said.
Holley cut two seconds off of his 400 time to win his heat in the regional. Under Unified track rules, scoring is the same for each heat in running events and each flight in the field events.
“It all starts with practice,” Hester said. “You really have to give the credit to all the athletes on the team. Their points are huge for every event.”
Unified track is in its third year as a sport in Indiana, and the Bull Dogs have had a Unified team all three years. They are making their first trip to state.
Holley thinks this is the best Unified team North has had in its three years.
“It’s a lot better,” Holley said. “We have way better times than the past couple years. We’ve just been beating our times this year, and we have a lot more people.”
That includes VanDeventer, Hester and Boldrey. All three are basketball players for the Bull Dogs and are first-year Unified competitors.
Boldrey said a couple of their friends did it last year and said what a great experience it was.
“They really felt they connected with the kids, so I thought I’d give it a shot and I feel the same way,” Boldrey said. “I feel a connection with these kids, and it’s just a great time.”
North coach Daniel Ho said last year, the Bull Dogs were very strong in the shot put, but this year, they have more of a complete package.
West Lafayette Harrison and Merrillville, which tied for the Kokomo Regional title, look to be the favorites on paper for the state meet. But North is right there with them.
“This is a special team with special talent,” Ho said. “We really have a good chance. That was our goal at the beginning of the year — we wanted to go to state — and now that we’re there, we want to bring the championship home for the school and for the city of Columbus, too.”
What: Unified Track and Field State Finals
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Robert C. Haugh Track & Field Complex, Indiana University
Teams: Columbus North, Avon, Center Grove, Fort Wayne North Side, Merrillville, Noblesville, Pendleton Heights, Perry Meridian, Terre Haute South, West Lafayette Harrison
Admission $10 (also good for Girls Track and Field State Finals, which follows at 3 p.m.)