Seymour unified track and field hopes to get season underway


The success in the second season of unified track and field at Seymour High School has the coaches and athletes excited for 2020.

The Owls went from 17 athletes in the inaugural year to 40 last year. In the postseason, they placed second in the sectional and advanced to regional for the first time.

At regional, however, only 13 athletes were available to compete, and Seymour placed 12th out of 12 teams. The top six teams moved on to state.

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When practices started earlier this month, the team gained some new participants, and Rachel Cain moved from assistant coach to head coach.

They were set to keep practicing to be ready for the season opener April 9 at Columbus North.

Late last week, though, the team’s routine came to a halt with schools closing because of concerns with the coronavirus and COVID-19.

Other spring sports teams gearing up for the season also stopped what they were doing, and the boys basketball state tournament was postponed at the regional round.

All Jackson County public and private schools are off until at least April 6.

The Indiana High School Athletic Association recently announced it plans to staging all spring sports tournament series events as scheduled, and a decision on meeting a number of contests to be eligible for the tournament will be made at a later date.

During its first week of practice, the unified team spent the first two days inside learning about rules and techniques. March 11 was the first practice outdoors, and then all of the coronavirus concerns arose.

The coaches and athletes hope their season will still happen.

“I’m looking forward to hopefully making it to state this year,” Cain said. “We have a lot of great kids that came out this year — returning and new — and the enthusiasm is already there. They are ready. They are excited.”

In February, Cain and assistant coach Amanda Neal attended a coaches convention, where they learned a lot about technique for shot put and long jump and new rules being implemented this season.

Across all high school track and field, the exchange zone for relays have changed. In the past, there was a 10-meter fly zone and a 20-meter exchange zone. Now, it’s one 30-meter exchange zone.

Also, in long jump, athletes can either jump from the toe board or at the edge of the pit, but they have to specify their choice beforehand. Plus, in all events, peer helpers are not allowed to make any contact with the person with which they are competing.

“We’re just implementing the rules that have always been there but making sure we’re reinforcing those because we are expecting to go farther in the state tournament this year,” Cain said. “We want to make sure we’re practicing those at every meet.”

During the first outdoor practice, the athletes practiced what the coaches had preached earlier in the week.

“Watching the kids throw, they are already making a personal record from what they had last season,” Cain said.

“I wish I would have measured today,” Neal said after the March 11 practice. “It was amazing the shot put how much farther they went. They went far with our little ball, but with that new technique, it’s just amazing. They are really going out there.”

With the roster growing again this year, Cain said she’s giving athletes an opportunity to try all of the events before she and Neal make final placings.

“We’re trying to let them find something they are comfortable with, and then even if they are not completely comfortable with it yet, we’re going to push them a little bit to keep practicing to get better and see what we’ve got,” Cain said.

Sophomore A.J. Engel and junior Keara Riley are in their second year on the team.

Engel said he hopes to do the long jump, 400-meter relay and 400- and 800-meter runs, while Riley wants to run the relay and throw the shot put.

“I love to run and hang out with my friends and make new friends. I’m looking forward to doing a lot better than last year, just to work hard,” Riley said.

“I just feel like these are great coaches, great kids,” Engel said. “You’ve just got to work hard and make sure that you’re doing what the coach tells you to do. My first meet, I’ll try to work hard. I want to see if we can win state this year. That’s what I really want to win.”

Junior Macy Traylor also is in her second year of unified track, while classmate Cameron Cox is new to the team.

Cox, however, said he used to participate in track and field.

“I had a lot of friends who said this was fun and you get to meet a lot of new faces,” he said. “It’s nice to help other people out, and I just want to meet all of the new people.”

Traylor said she joined last year because she heard people at school saying good things about it.

“Everyone was so engaged, everyone wants to see everyone do better and it’s such a good atmosphere and you learn so much,” she said. “It’s nice to see everyone work together and just be happy and cheer everyone on. … I know everyone now, and it’s nice having all of these new friendships because they stick with you.”

Cain said the best part about coaching the team is watching the friendships being made and blossoming.

“Getting to see some of my students in our special ed program make friendships that are going to last and carry over, it’s not any different,” she said. “It’s a real friendship, and watching them grow together and doing things outside of track together is beautiful.”

Unified track is a unique program that is very inclusive, and that’s why the coaches said more students want to be involved.

“Kids are seeing across the board that we’re accepting of everybody, and you don’t have to be a great runner. That’s kind of our motto: You don’t have to be a great runner,” Cain said.

“I think, too, kids that normally sit back and watch things but don’t do sports or don’t because they aren’t good enough they think, they come out for this and they have a blast, and it builds confidence,” Neal said.

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Seymour High School unified track and field schedule

(Note: This is subject to change)

April 9: At Columbus North, 5 p.m.

April 29: Home meet, 5:30 p.m.

May 2: Hoosier Hills Conference meet at Columbus East, 11 a.m.

May 11: At Columbus East, 5:45 p.m.

May 14: At Jennings County, 5:30 p.m.

May 23: Sectional (Borden), 11 a.m.

May 30: Regional

June 6: State


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