Pioneer City hosts all-inclusive event for boys and girls
Sports have always provided an arena for teaching life lessons, forming friendships and providing memorable moments.
This year, Unified Sports of Lackawanna County, with the assistance of the Special Olympics Program, has provided the launching point for kids to enjoy track participation who may not get that opportunity otherwise.
In this inaugural season, Carbondale Area, Abington Heights and Valley View fielded Unified Sports track teams.
Carbondale Area and AH has met twice with the teams splitting their meets.
“At CA, we have 15 student athletes, said head coach, Samantha Masco. “Half the team consists of students who don’t play a spring sport for their school and the other half are Special Olympian student athletes.
Participants compete in one running event (either the 100 or 400) and then one throwing event (either the mini javelin or shot put). There is also a 4x100 relay and 4x400 relay.
“Each athlete runs in a division equal to their ability so it’s a balanced event,” Masco said.
The goal of Unified Sports is to bring students of all abilities to work together as a team and build lasting friendships.
“Unified Sports is inspired by a simple principal: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding,” noted Masco.
This is quite evident in the hallways at CA as the teammates exchange conversation daily and enjoy their interaction with each other.
Masco and assistant Mike Murphy oversee the team while many others have also been instrumental in getting the program off the ground.
Erica Loftus (acting Special Education Coordinator), Robert Mihalick (Superintendent), Joseph Farrell (high school principal) and Erik Larson (athletic director-athletic trainer) have provided key assistance in getting the CA program off the ground according to Masco.
For Masco, the biggest reward is the reaction of the Special Olympian athletes.
“Each day I'm with these students, I am encouraged by their determination and strength,” he said.
“Despite their limitations, they give their all and to see their faces and expressions after a victory is priceless.”
It has been equally rewarding for the other students as they realize not everyone may grasp things as easily as they do.
While this season was shortened due to the weather, Masco looks forward to moving forward next season.
He hopes there will be more meets to give the athletes more opportunities and to show the Special Olympics community the good things happening at Carbondale Area.