Seven track and field teams including 91 athletes and partners came together to celebrate competition and inclusion.
Morristown Daily Record
Mount Olive has been recognized as one of 36 Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools on ESPN’s honor roll. It is the only school from New Jersey on the list.
Mount Olive was one of five New Jersey high schools to receive a national banner from Special Olympics at the start of the 2020 school year, along with Mendham, West Morris, Delsea and Woodrow Wilson.
Kaitlyn Bailey of Mt Olive competes in the long jump during the NJAC Unified track and field meet at Jefferson Township High School . May 24, 2018. Randolph, NJ (Photo: Bob Karp/Staff Photographer)
“I’m dumbfounded,” said Mount Olive Unified head coach Nancy Gilbert, a special education teacher for 32 years.
“I’m in shock, and I’m so excited for our school district to be recognized, and our kids to be recognized, and the program to be recognized. … Every year, it’s like you’re chipping away and chipping away to get our kids included. Now, this is something that’s recognizing us nationally. It’s showing that all means everyone. It’s amazing they’re recognized at that level.”
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Now in its fourth year, Mount Olive hosts Unified soccer, basketball, and track and field. Its Unified club is led jointly by athletes with special needs and their neurotypical partners.
ESPN will announce its top five schools Oct. 12.
Open to student-athletes in Pre-K through college, Special Olympics Unified brings students with and without disabilities together on the same team. They provide athletic and social inclusion, allowing teammates to build friendships on and off the field.
Even when Mount Olive was shut down during the pandemic, the Unified students and their partners had bowling and basketball competitions with Newton’s Unified team online.
Unified programs promote an inclusive school climate of collaboration between and respect for all members of the student body and staff. Unified Champion Schools have demonstrated commitment by meeting 10 national standards of excellence.
Said Unified assistant coach Pam Molfetto, “It’s part of the school now, and that’s a great thing.”
Jane Havsy is a sports reporter for DailyRecord.com. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis, subscribe today.
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