EASTHAM — It’s a chilly and windy Thursday afternoon at Nauset Regional High School. Classes have just ended for the day and the track team is warming up in the gym before the runners head outside to train.
Nauset’s unified outdoor track team, comprised of six athletes from the high school’s Life Skills program, is also warming up. The team had planned to be at a meet against the Riverview School in Sandwich, but it was postponed because of predicted rain.
That’s fine with the team. What matters to them is simply that they’re back to being a team.
The pandemic caused the unified track program to shut down for two years. Now Special Olympics student athletes will have a chance not only to compete against other schools that offer this program, including Monomoy, Sandwich, and Riverview, but also to hang out.
Alanna Murphy, the main teacher for Nauset’s Life Skills special education program, serves as the team’s adviser. This is Murphy’s third year at Nauset.
“They’re the best kids ever,” Murphy said. “They don’t understand all the concepts of the sport, but it gives them exposure to other kids they don’t normally hang out with. We push as much participation as possible.”
Wyatt Vida, Brennan Armstrong, Zach Rosario, Anna Rogers, Matt Moreau, and Jack Fabiano are all in Murphy’s Life Skills program. The program supports special education students both before graduation and during the years up to 22 called transition.
Rogers and Moreau are from Truro and Vida is from Provincetown.
The students face various disorders, but Murphy said they stay away from labels.
The team will be practicing to compete in sprint events as well as javelin throw and shot put.
Track and field, Murphy said, “ties in a lot of occupational and physical therapy needs.”
Moreau, 20, was excited to warm up indoors with the outdoor track team. As soon as the crew moved outside, he was jogging right there with them
“I love all of it,” he told the Independent.
Vida and Rogers took to the sidelines to watch the practice on Thursday. Murphy admitted it had been a long day for some students.
Armstrong, a freshman from Brewster, was leading the way as Nauset’s track team set out on a lap on the outdoor track. He cleared a couple of hurdles, made a short pit stop in the grass, then made his way back onto the track.
“He’s so, so fast,” Murphy said of Armstrong. “It’s only when he chooses to be, though, and that can sometimes be during the school day,” she said.
Murphy is hoping she can help Armstrong direct his energy to outdoor track.
Moira Nobili, who coaches Nauset’s boys and girls track teams, is happy to have the unified team practicing alongside hers. Murphy turns to Nobili for most of the technical coaching while she focuses on making sure her students are enjoying themselves.
After about an hour of practice, most of the Special Olympics student athletes and Life Skills participants have had enough running for one day. They head toward the bus to take them home.
The team had its first meet on Monday, April 11 at Monomoy Regional High School in Harwich.
“The meet went so well today on both sides,” Murphy said Monday night. “It was amazing to see the sportsmanship and teamwork in person. They all competed in 100-meter, 400-meter relay, long jump, and shot put.”
The hope is that the unified Special Olympics program will grow at Nauset to include more sports than just track. For now, Murphy and the team are focusing on the meets they have scheduled this year and getting the program back on track after two years off.