Jeff LaBonte

Auburn will join 19 other Massachusetts cities and towns offering unified sports at the high school level. Beginning this spring, AHS will field a unified track and field team for the first time. Auburn High Special Education teacher and Department Head, Alison DeLuca is organizing the program.

“We are sponsored by Special Olympics” said DeLuca. “They provided a grant to get us started.”

According to DeLuca, the program will include about 50% special needs athletes and 50% traditional athletes, which is what makes the program “unified.” Special Olympics runs numerous events under their Special Olympics Unified Sports umbrella.

The unified track and field season will run concurrent with the spring track season. However, one challenge is that the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) does not allow athletes to participate in more than one varsity sport each season. Therefore, since unified sports are sanctioned by the MIAA, DeLuca needs to find student buddy athletes who are not participating in varsity track and field (or any other high school spring sport).

The grant from Special Olympics calls for a three-year commitment from the school. According to DeLuca, Dr. Brunelle [Auburn School Superintendent Dr. Maryellen Brunelle] is on board, and the search for buddy athletes is on.

“I am hoping to bring in sophomores in particular” said DeLuca. “That would give us that three-year continuity through the pilot program.”

DeLuca is quick to point out that she is the coordinator, and not the coach.  “This combines my passions; sports and special needs” said DeLuca. “The track coaches have been very supportive and have agreed to help train the athletes” said DeLuca. “But we are looking for a coach from inside AHS.  If we don’t find one, we will begin looking outside” she added.

The team will compete in shotput, javelin, running long jump, 100m, 400m, 800m, 4×100 relay and 4×400 relay. There will be four meets against other unified track and field teams, though only one will be a home meet. “We are looking for an evening meet, where we could get more parents there and more support from the school and community” said DeLuca.

Anyone with questions about the unified track and field program can call Alison DeLuca at the Auburn High School, (508) 832-0191 or e-mail adeluca@auburn.k12.ma.us.