VIDEO: Track and field brings a 'special' team together for DIAA meet
Thanks to a new program, Concord High School student Shane Sutherland will get to race for a championship medal at the DIAA State Track & Field Championships on Saturday.
The sophomore competes as part of the Special Olympics program, and thanks to a partnership between Special Olympics Delaware and the DIAA, there will be six "Unified Sports" events featuring teams involving Special Olympics and "Unified Partners"
Concord will be represented by Sutherland and his partner Cody Bauer in the 100 meter dash and shot put. The two will both compete in each event, with their combined times and distances being put together to determine the winning team.
Bauer says Sutherland has been a quick study in preparing for the state meet.
"In shot put he'd never done it before until 2 weeks ago. He started out throwing 10 (feet) and he's up at 17 now. He doesn't ask me to go to the gym anymore I guess he feels confident in his arms."
Shane says he's had to pay attention to details to be successful at throwing a deceptively heavy 12 pound ball a long distance.
"Just extending your arm out and bringing your other arm back."
The Unified Sports model has been catching on around the country. In Rhode Island Unified Volleyball and Unified Basketball are offered, while Connecticut Special Olympians can compete in those two along with soccer and softball. The national Special Olympics organization adopted the program in 1989 as a way to help better include their athletes into the overall community.
Bauer, who met Sutherland through his involvement in Concord's peer mentoring program, says there is no stigma against Shane in the classroom halls.
"I wouldn't say people stray away from Shane, he's as normal as you or I. He loves playing sports and he's competitive. If anything he pushes me harder than anyone else."
Cody is scheduled to graduate next month while Shane still has two more years at the Wilmington school, but Shane said right in front of his smiling partner that he's enjoyed every minute of this track and field experience.
"It's been a privilege to be with Cody, and he's a good partner and teammate to have."
Concord will join Brandywine, Appoquinimink, and Caesar Rodney in the events which will be mixed into the usual program at the track meet Saturday at Caesar Rodney High School in Camden.
Special Olympics says they hope the success of the events will lead to more school involvement in the future, and potentially opening up new sports as well.
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