Unified Track team crosses the finish line


One last picture of the 2023 Unified Track team at Crawford Stadium.

The North Penn Unified Track season came to a close Tuesday, as North Penn High School hosted the Regional Unified Track competition at Crawford Stadium. The weather was great, the competition was strong, spirits were high, and athletes and partners had a fantastic day in their final competition as a team.  

Unified sports are a division of Special Olympics whose mission is to pair individuals with disabilities and those without disabilities on the same team. North Penn has a Unified Bocce team that competes in the winter and a Unified Track team that competes in the spring. Mr. James Groff, who coaches Unified Track with Mrs. Kerry Byrnes, summed up what is special about Unified Sports when asked what he enjoys about coaching the Unified Track team

“Coaching has been a large part of my life and career. Seeing my students work hard and achieve their goals is an amazing feeling. Unified sports takes our student accomplishments to another level when our partners and athletes work together and support each other,” commented Groff.

Unified Track competitions feature 8 track and field events: a 100m race, a 400m race, an 800m race, the long jump, the mini javelin throw, the shot put, a 4x100m relay, and a 4×400 m relay. The North Penn Unified Track team is coached by Mr. James Groff and Mrs. Kerry Byrnes. They have been training since mid-March and have participated in 4 meets over the last 5 weeks.  

At Tuesday’s regional meet, the North Penn team finished 5th with a total of 121 points. The first-place Perkiomen Valley’s team accumulated 163.75 points on the day. Some outstanding performances on the North Penn team included Isabelle Maggi winning her heat in the 100 m, Nicholas Oropeza improving his performance on every one of his races and the 4x100m team (Mark Heath, Nick Lupinacci, Megan O’Donell and Luke Williams) winning their heat. 

The 4x100m anchor, Luke Williams, felt good about winning the relay, but that’s not his favorite event.  

“Mini javelin is my favorite event because I know that I’m good at that, and I can throw it far because I used to play center field when I was younger,” explained Williams.

Unified Sports, though, are about much more than success on the field. Most Unified Sports athletes and partners value the friends they’ve made on the team and the opportunity to meet new people more than anything. 

“Being part of a unified track has definitely helped me in high school because I feel comfortable talking to new people,” said Megan O’Donnell. 

“I get to joke around with my friends and talk about upcoming events,” added Williams.

Mr. Groff also called out this special aspect of Unified Sports as he watched the Unified Track team enjoying the final moments of their season Tuesday. 

“My favorite moment of the season for sure was the end of yesterday’s meet. As we were waiting for the results to be tallied I looked around and everyone was exhausted but having so much fun. All I saw were smiles and friends having a good time,” said Groff.

Congratulations to all of the unified club members on great bocce and track seasons and good luck to the Unified Sports seniors in their future endeavors.