A cool win persisted at Warwick Tuesday afternoon, and the clouds unleashed intermittent showers, but the weather did not dampen the spirits of the athletes, coaches, officials and spectators participating in the second annual York-Lancaster regional Unified track and field championship meet.
The 10 schools competing — Conestoga Valley, Ephrata, Hempfield, McCaskey, Penn Manor, Warwick, Central York, Dallastown, Red Lion and York Tech — fielded teams that included students with disabilities (athletes) and those without (partners).
They competed in the 100-meter dash, 400-meter dash, 800-meter run, 4x100-meter relay, 4x400-meter relay, the long jump, and the shot put and mini javelin with modified implements.
Red Lion repeated as the regional champion, earning 104 team points to advance to the state championship scheduled for May 25 at Shipppensburg in conjunction with with the PIAA meet.
"This meet has just been amazing," said Rachel Metzinger, head coach for the Conestoga Valley team in its first season. "It's been such a unique experience to watch so many kids come together for one event. And it was really nice to not just meet the kids from Lancaster, but from York."
Grouped into divisions based on ability level, the competitors charged down the track in the 100 to start the afternoon, as their peers cheered from the infield and fans, lining the fence with signs and camera phones, shouted and applauded throughout each race.
100-meter dash in the Unified regional championships. That's Maggie from Hempfield bearing down on the finish line. pic.twitter.com/MSeEPTQdme— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) May 14, 2019
"I just love the kids and their grit and their tenacity," Metzinger said, "and how much everyone supports everyone. It doesn't matter the ability level or the talent level. It's just everyone coming out and helping each other, and that's just so amazing to be a part of."
Each event ended with a round of high-fives and fist bumps, as athletes from different schools congratulated each other. Between events, the athletes and partners continued to build the friendships they encountered throughout the Unified track and field season.
"There are just so many new friendships," said Lauren Holmes, the head coach for Ephrata, another program in its maiden voyage, "and they're genuine friendships. it's not just people helping other people. They're all friends. Everybody has their inside jokes or handshakes, things like that. There's no stigma. There's no label."
Second exchange of the 4x100 relay at the Unified track and field championships. pic.twitter.com/3bXMQhYJHc— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) May 14, 2019
The friendships among teammates have grown outside of the competitions and practices they've been participating in since March.
"It's so fun to see all of our teammates walking down the hallway," said Nicole McCoy, McCaskey's coach, "and yelling from across the hall, 'Hey, how's it going?' or eating lunch together, things that wouldn't normally happen. All these new types of relationships are forming, and it's fun to watch."
McCoys Red Tornado team racked up 85 points to earn second place at Tuesday's meet, the culmination of a season of work and dedication.
"A lot of our kids," McCoy said, "come into every practice and every meet wanting to do better and wanting to set new goals. They always ask, 'What did I do before? Can I beat my previous distance or time?' It's awesome to see all of our kids, no matter what their ability level, setting goals for themselves and pushing themselves to reach those goals."