Special Olympics track, field prepares for regionals

Track, field team rotates through practice stations


Iliana Garza ‘25 enthusiastically practices high knees warmup before running station (Ludden/LION)

Julia Ludden, Reporter

Every Tuesday during the spring season, Special Olympics track and field practices in the SC fieldhouse. The 26 member team splits into four different groups and then rotates through different stations. These include throwing, running, jumping, and training stations. 

The team focuses on three main events. The athletes will throw either a tennis ball, softball or shot put, walk or run in various distance events, and compete in standing or running long jump, assistant coach Jill Vaupell said. 

“It is hard to pinpoint one event we are strongest in,” Vaupell said. “Athletes compete in their two individual best events.” 

The team competed in their regional championship on May 6-7. Athletes who received a gold, silver, or bronze medal, will compete at State on May 25-27. 

The team is constantly practicing to better prepare themselves, first season track athlete Pat Woods ‘23 said. Medaling was a main goal of the athletes at regionals, the team received – medals overall. 

“I think the shot put [was] fun,” Woods said. “I am looking forward to competing.” 

Besides simply coaching athletes to win medals, the coaches have additional priorities, Vaupell said. 

“Our goal this season is to help our athletes have a wonderful time, grow in their events and feel the power of the LT team.” Vaupell said. 

Some athletes who participate in track and field also participated in Special Olympics basketball, like Woods. The main differences between these two teams is that track only has one main meet whereas basketball faces other schools more consistently. Despite this, basketball helps prepare athletes for the track season, Woods said. 

“Actually, [track and field] is pretty much the same coaching [as basketball], so that really helps,” Woods said. 

Having multiple genuine sports teams offered for special education students enables them to have flexibility when choosing which sports to participate in. In addition to track and basketball, Woods is on the football team. 

“Since this is my first time doing track as a senior, it [gave me] the opportunity to do three sports in high school,” Woods said. 

Vaupell has been a coach for two seasons. This has given her the ability to watch the athletes grow individually and as a team, she said. 

“I began with Special Olympics basketball and it quickly became something I knew I wanted to dedicate myself to,” Vaupell said. “The athletes’ enthusiasm is contagious.”

Special Olympics is an organization that strives to create a better world by fostering the acceptance and inclusion of all people. Through the power of sports, people with intellectual disabilities discover new strengths, abilities, skills, and success, Vaupell said. 

“Track is a wonderful mixture of the team spirit as well as working hard to conquer individual growth,” Vaupell said. “Seeing our athletes proud and excited not only for themselves but their teammates is inspiring. Plus, we have a ton of fun.”