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Unified sports: SVVSD gives special needs students a chance to shine

  • Jackson Baumgardner, left, Kylee Mendez, and teacher, Lindsey Fox, of Mead High School, celebrate during bowling competition. St. Vrain Valley School District celebrated Unified Sports Day of Champions on May 7, 2021 at Everly-Montgomery Field in Longmont. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Kelsey Hale, right, helps Juan Cardenas attempt to dunk Skyline High School Principal, Heidi Ringer, in the dunk tank competition. St. Vrain Valley School District celebrated Unified Sports Day of Champions on May 7, 2021 at Everly-Montgomery Field in Longmont.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Juan Cardenas watches Skyline High School Principal, Heidi Ringer, go down in the water in the duck tank competition. St. Vrain Valley School District celebrated Unified Sports Day of Champions on May 7, 2021 at Everly-Montgomery Field in Longmont.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Kelsey Hale, right, celebrates with Juan Cardenas after dunking Skyline High School Principal, Heidi Ringer, in the dunk tank competition. St. Vrain Valley School District celebrated Unified Sports Day of Champions on May 7, 2021 at Everly-Montgomery Field in Longmont.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Jackson Baumgardner, left, and teacher, Lindsey Fox, of Mead High School, celebrate during bowling competition. St. Vrain Valley School District celebrated Unified Sports Day of Champions on May 7, 2021 at Everly-Montgomery Field in Longmont.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Tracey Miles helps Evelyn Trill-Mares, of Longmont High School, with shuffleboard. St. Vrain Valley School District celebrated Unified Sports Day of Champions on May 7, 2021 at Everly-Montgomery Field in Longmont.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Audrey Brekert, left, gives encouragement to Cole Smith, of Mead High School, before bowling. St. Vrain Valley School District celebrated Unified Sports Day of Champions on May 7, 2021 at Everly-Montgomery Field in Longmont. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Sarah Huston, of Skyline High School, takes the plunge in the dunk tank competition. St. Vrain Valley School District celebrated Unified Sports Day of Champions on May 7, 2021 at Everly-Montgomery Field in Longmont.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Longmont High School students, Parker Taylor, left, and Renata Means, compete in shuffleboard. St. Vrain Valley School District celebrated Unified Sports Day of Champions on May 7, 2021 at Everly-Montgomery Field in Longmont.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Jackson Baumgardner, left, Kylee Mendez, and teacher, Lindsey Fox, of Mead High School, celebrate during bowling competition. St. Vrain Valley School District celebrated Unified Sports Day of Champions on May 7, 2021 at Everly-Montgomery Field in Longmont.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Jackson Baumgardner, left, and Kylee Mendez, of Mead High School, compete in bowling with help from teacher, Lindsey Fox. St. Vrain Valley School District celebrated Unified Sports Day of Champions on May 7, 2021 at Everly-Montgomery Field in Longmont.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

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LONGMONT–St. Vrain Valley students laughed and played in the beautiful Colorado spring weather on a sunny Friday afternoon. The school district couldn’t have asked for a better day for its Day of Champions.

Longmont High School hosted the event that focused on providing special needs students in and around the area with a safe, inclusive environment to play a wide array of sports: bowling, a 50-yard dash, shuffleboard, long jump, soccer, tennis and kickball. The district even threw in a principal dunk tank. Main Street School principal Kate Green fell victim as she plunged to icy depths.

“Oh my gosh, it was so cold. It was shockingly cold,” she said. “It takes the air out of you, but totally worth it to see their faces and see them get excited. That’s all that matters.”

Witnessing the students’ joy brought a smile to her face, especially after such a trying school year.

“Oh my gosh, it’s amazing, especially after the year that we’ve had and the transitions–the back and forth with our students from virtual to in-person,” she said. “… It just represents community and all of the good, amazing things that can still come out of something, coming from where we’ve been, that journey. It’s just bringing everyone together and just knowing how strong we are as a result of everything we’ve gone through together as a community, coming out on the other side and being able to celebrate with our students and our families.”

Students were divided up based on the school they attended as athletic directors from around the district manned each station. The event meant to make up for a unified sports season lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rising vaccination rates and lower infection numbers gave the district the confidence to host one big field day in a COVID-friendly outdoor environment.

“Unified sports essentially are creating that cohesive relationship between what we would consider a general education student and a special education student,” Silver Creek High School special education teacher Chris Blair said. “The unified program helps to give the special education student an opportunity to compete in a safe and inclusive environment. It also allows for general education students to kind of get that exposure that they wouldn’t normally get, to be part of that inclusive environment.”

Annie Hanson, a 19-year-old Main Street student, said that the soccer, bowling and track stations were her favorite. She, like every other participant, earned a ribbon upon completing each station and she was happy to be able to spend the day with her friends.

Silver Creek student Ethan Newby, 14, took pleasure in dunking his principal but enjoyed the bowling and tennis stations more than anything.

“I love knocking down all the pins,” he said. “I love tennis because I love hitting the ball.”

The event came together through wide-ranging community support. All of the snacks at the two break areas were donated, and Beau Jo’s provided pizza at a heavily discounted price to feed 200 people. The Future Business Leaders of America at Silver Creek designed and provided the custom t-shirts that corresponded with each participant’s school. Silver Creek’s leadership academy sent student volunteers to help out.

“I’m incredibly thankful to be a part of our St. Vrain community,” Green said. “It is amazing, the work that we do here, and I get to be a part of that.”