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Hamilton track meet marks two milestones for student-athletes, Special Olympics

Posted at 4:15 PM, Apr 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-01 18:22:00-04

HAMILTON — For the first time since the pandemic, track and field athletes from all over the region got a chance to use the fantastic new Hamilton High School stadium -- and that wasn't the only milestone.

Last spring the stadium stood empty after schools were shutdown because of the coronavirus outbreak.

But on Thursday athletes from the Bitterroot, Missoula, and Mission valleys -- even schools as far away as Deer Lodge and Dillon got a chance to use the new facility.

The competition also marked another accomplishment, becoming the first local track event where the Montana High School Association and Special Olympics Montana offered "Unified Track".

That's where Special Olympics athletes compete right alongside their classmates after meeting all the requirements for attendance, scholarship and performance.

"MHSA has been so supportive in giving our student-athletes with intellectual disabilities opportunities in school and to compete with their peers," said Jeannette Gray. "It displays the level of inclusion in our schools. And acceptance."

Gray says in the past, Special Olympics athletes were able to compete under the "unified" model at state-level track meets. And the organizations hope to expand the program to more schools across Montana next year.