The state track and field meet will be a little more special this year.
Thirteen teams consisting of two regular education and two special education students are slated to compete in the first-ever Unified Division at the Island Movers/HHSAA Track and Field State Championship meet being held May 15 and 16 at Maui’s War Memorial Stadium.
The 59th running of the state track championships will feature teams from seven Project UNIFY high schools representing Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island. The teams, which will feature students from Farrington, Hilo, Kailua, Kaimuki, Kapaa, Kauai and Waiakea High Schools, will compete in the Unified 4×100 meter relay (scheduled for 4:10 p.m. on Friday) and 4×400 meter relay (7:05 p.m. on Friday). The squads have been training since March and competed in Special Olympics Hawaii’s Area Games in April.
Kaimuki is seeded first in the sprint relay with a time of 56.01, followed closely behind by Kailua and Waiakea. The Bulldogs are also favored in the 4×400 with a time of 5:01.20, followed by Kailua and Hilo.
“This weekend’s competition is a huge step in helping Special Olympics Hawaii further its mission of leveling the playing field and creating opportunities of acceptance and inclusion for our athletes with intellectual disabilities,” said Nancy Bottelo, president and CEO of Special Olympics Hawaii. “For any athlete—but especially for Special Olympics athletes and their families—competing in a high school state championship is typically something they can only dream about. But, thanks to a strong partnership with the (HHSAA) and their support, this weekend we are thrilled to see that dream become a reality.”
Project UNIFY is a Special Olympics program designed to promote friendship and respect between people with and without intellectual disabilities and foster positive attitudes through sports.
Since its inception in 1968, Special Olympics Hawaii has grown from a handful of participants to more than 3,900 athletes across the state.