MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The TSSAA Board of Control on Monday approved the addition of Unified Track and Field events, marking the beginning of a partnership between the high school athletic association and Special Olympics Tennessee.
The competition will begin during Spring Fling this school year. It will be considered an invitational championship. If successful, it would become a sanctioned sport.
Unified Sports joins students with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team.
“When you look at those kids competing – I’ve done it for many years in education – those are the kids that have no complaints,” TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said. “It’s not about winning and losing with them. It’s about them being able to compete, have fun and have a sense of accomplishment.
“It gives me chills. I just have a special place in my heart for those kids.”
TSSAA member schools with existing Unified track and field programs will have until Oct. 1 to notify Special Olympics Tennessee of their desire to participate.
For the inaugural year, eight teams will be invited by Special Olympics Tennessee to take part in the event. If the TSSAA continues to hold the event, more schools could be included. More sports also could be added.
“Right now we know of states that have basketball,” Childress said. “Any individual sport you could probably add.”
Events included in the inaugural TSSAA Unified track and field invitational will be the 100-meter dash, 400, 4×100-meter relay, shot put and long jump.
The Unified track and field events will be incorporated into the existing Spring Fling track schedule, with individual medals awarded and a Unified Track & Field champion and runner-up team decided. The Unified competition will have no bearing on the traditional Spring Fling track and field results.
“This is a win, win,” TSSAA assistant director Richard McWhirter said. “We don’t get many of those in our office.”