Story and photos found here.
Each student that competed in and crossed the finish line at Thursday’s track meet at Spanish Fork’s Maple Mountain High School was immediately given a medal while their teachers, family and friends cheered them on.
“I got first place!” one student said running up to someone on the sideline with his medal outstretched after competing in the 50 meter dash.
Every student, both the Nebo School District special education students who were competing and their Maple Mountain student volunteers, were winners at the annual Super Stars Track and Field Day.
“Our kids look forward to (the event) every year,” Wendi Pray, district level specialist with special education, said. “This is the highlight of their end of school year just because they feel so successful and they get to have one-on-one attention with their big buddies and they get a medal and everyone cheering for them.”
The track meet happens each year around this time and gives third through ninth-grade special education students from across the district the chance to participate in a variety of running events, softball throw, long jump, running long jump and the high jump.
“There are no points, there’s no winner or loser thing,” she added. “It really is just the kids all get to run and they all get a t-shirt a medal and spend the day with their buddy.”
Dave Boyack, athletic director at Maple Mountain High School, said they had about 150 student athletes, including the track and field team, and physical education students assist with the event.
It’s part of the school’s effort to help the student athletes learn service as part of their Especially For Athletes program, which focuses on encouraging the athletes to use their talents and influence to make their communities better.
“The number one thing we want our students here to leave with is to serve,” Boyack said. “We want our kids to learn how to serve others.”
“We are looking to bless people rather than impress people,” he added.
The Super Stars Track Meet is also one of his and the students’ favorites.
“We put on about five track meets and invitations here and this is the best one, without a doubt. We look forward to this one the most,” he said.
Chelsea Summers, a sophomore at Maple Mountain High School, had been partnered up with one of the special needs students and she’d been helping him make it to the different events and participate.
“I’ve gotten to know my buddy and know his personality and how spunky he is (today),” Summers said.
She said she volunteered to help with the event because it was something she was interested in and she wanted to help out.
“I really like being around kids and I think it’s like a good experience,” Summers said.
Katie Russell, a teacher at Mapleton Elementary, said the students at her school had been excited about the track meet and the events they’d get to participate in for awhile.
But beyond the excitement it brings the participants, Russell said the track meet brings people together.
“I think it builds unity in the community and I think that everyone getting to work together on common things is good,” she said.