Unified track athletes, partners work together for Olympian, Bull Dog teams

Unified track and field now is in its eighth year (not counting the COVID-canceled 2020 season) as an IHSAA-sanctioned sport and has grown to 110 school-sponsored teams statewide.

Columbus East and Columbus North Unified track teams have been around pretty much since the beginning of that time period, and both continue to field sizeable teams. Wednesday evening, they got together for a little competition at East’s Stafford Field.

“I think it’s fantastic,” veteran East coach Peggy Myers said. “All our athletes are really striving to improve and putting forth a lot of effort and dedication. That’s all athletes across the board.”

While Myers has been with the Olympians team since its inception, Elizabeth Dwyer is in her first year as North’s coach. Dwyer was a member of the Bull Dogs’ Unified track team when her brother James was competing.

“It’s been really good, actually,” Elizabeth Dwyer said. “I was really surprised how awesome our athletes and partners are. They are willing to do anything and everything for the team. They put their hearts into it and everything. Everyone loves everyone. They have come together as a family.”

East has 36 kids on its team, while North has 25. About two-thirds of those at both schools are Unified partners who assist the Unified athletes.

“We are struggling getting boy partners,” Dwyer said. “We have plenty of boy athletes, and we have amazing boy athletes, but we need athletes and partners together. Next year, we can come back bigger and better than ever and do even more.”

The Bull Dogs won Wednesday’s dual meet 140-117.

Both teams were coming off fifth-place finishes in their respective conference meets on Saturday. Columbus North took fifth in the Conference Indiana meet at Bloomington North. More than half the team had personal-best performances.

“We did everything we could to put our best out there, and they did an amazing job,” Dwyer said. “I couldn’t ask for more from them on Saturday. We just got beat by bigger teams, which is all OK.”

The Olympians were fifth in the Hoosier Hills Conference meet, which they hosted.

“They’re all competitive, every single one of them,” Myers said. “We don’t have any partner-athletes who are only supporting and not running. Our biggest goal always is for everyone to strive to do their best and continue to support each other. Our team is very supportive of one another. If they’re doing their best for that day, that’s our goal.”