UD Host Special Olympics Unified Track Meet

Jan 23, 2020

DUBUQUE, Iowa - The Divisional NFL championships may have kept many sports fans at home in the tri-states enjoying the comforts of a warm comforter on Sunday, Jan.19. Inside the Chlapaty Recreation and Wellness Center on the A.Y. McDonald Indoor Track, many athletes braved the winter storm and negative wind chills outside to compete in the University of Dubuque Special Olympics Unified Track Meet on Sunday. Special Olympics Iowa serves 16,000 athletes and offers Olympic-style individual and team sports that provide meaningful training and competition opportunities for persons with intellectual disabilities. The Unified Track Meet had 54 athletes pre-registered to compete throughout the day.

The unified meet is where Special Olympians are partnered with an able-bodied athletes and compete together. Competitors joined members of the UD track and field and cross country teams to compete in the 110m race walk, shuttle relay (2x55m), broad jump, long jump, softball throw, turbo javelin, and 4x200m relay. Over $500 was raised and donated to the Special Olympics on behalf of event coordinator and current UD senior student-athlete Mackenzie Helgemoe. Volunteers from across campus joined the group for the day which included: Sports Information staff, Certified Athletic Trainers, admissions staff, faculty and family of faculty, aviation department, alumni andf community members, as well as members of the volleyball, golf, soccer, softball, track and field and cross country teams.

With the support, Special Olympics can transform lives through the joy of sport, each and every day. Every day we empower athletes to shatter stereotypes and exceed their personal bests on the playing field and in life. But for every inspiring Special Olympics athlete in Iowa, there are seven more people waiting for their chance - and so many more around the world. 

"The Unified track meet at the University of Dubuque was a hit for all participants," commented Lexxi O’Brien, Special Olympics Iowa Unified Program Coordinator. "Special Olympics athletes of varying abilities and experience were paired up with student-athletes from the track and cross country teams. Unified sports creates a platform for people with similar interests, in this case track and field, to share new experiences and create new friendships! It is safe to say that everyone left the event with a new friend that day."

Anyone looking to contribute and become a coach for the Special Olympics Iowa can take an online course to receive your Class A Volunteer credential. Being a Special Olympics coach can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a lifetime – for both you and the athletes you mentor. Special Olympics coaches often find that the personal rewards received are equal to or even outweigh the benefits they offer the athletes. Coaches give Special Olympics athletes the most immediate awareness of their own worth, ability, courage and capacity to grow and improve.

Interested in becoming a Special Olympics Coach? Click here for more information.

Lacey Kutsch competes in the turbo javelin surrounded by Unified Track Members.


Lacey Kutsch (L) and Jamie Flowers (R) congratulate each other after competition.

Everyone cheered for all the competitors on Sunday at the Unified Track Meet.


Jeremiah Grams launches his throw in the turbo Javelin,as a smiling UD's throws coach Jake Malm encourages him.

Katie Stephan tosses the softball as volunteers Austin Feyen and NCAA Division III Shot Put Champion Tanasha Atwater prepare to measure the throw.

Benjamin Singletary running down the runway of the long jump with Spartans track and field cheering him on.

Lisa Jordahl leaps through the air in the long jump on Sunday.

Plenty of hugs and happy faces prevailed at the Unified Track Meet held on the A.Y. McDonald Indoor Track
in the Chlapaty Recreation and Wellness Center on Sunday.