The dedicated Unified athletes from Skyridge High School defeated rival Hunter High School 4-3 to claim the Division 4 Unified Soccer State Championship title on Oct. 10 as part of the annual Show Up for Unified Sports Special Olympics.
The event is sponsored by Utah’s First Lady Abby Cox and includes Utah’s top Unified Sports teams. The teams competed for the state championship title at the America First field(formerly Rio Tinto Stadium) in Sandy.
The Falcons took a 2-0 lead in the first half with goals made by Bodey Stewart and Ian Owen. Early in the second half, the Wolverines moved in front after scoring three quick times in successions. The Skyridge players got re-energized and scored two goals in the final six minutes to win the title contest.
“The team has had a great record this year, losing only once all season,” said Skyridge Assistant Principal Chad Wiet.
“In the state preliminaries, two of the three games were very close. Skyridge advanced to the final game after winning a penalty shootout, in which our goalkeeper, Sofia Adams, saved three out of five penalty kicks,” he said.
Team members include Sofia Adams, Cora Allgaier, Kate Arbuckle, Matt Dodge, Cody Kirkman, Carston Martin, Nate Moodie, Samantha Nickel, Ian Owen, Wes Ragozzine, Jarren Sanchez, Rylan Southwick and Bodey Stewart.
The Unified sports program promotes inclusion and friendship. Skyridge High School has developed a successful Unified Sports program which allows students to achieve letter recognition for adapted sports, offering the athletes the same opportunities as mainstreamed athletes.
Unified Sports brings together athletes with and without intellectual disabilities to play on the same team. The program was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together as a quick path to friendship and understanding.
“In Unified Sports teams are made up of people of similar age and ability,” according to materials provided by the Special Olympics organization.
“That makes practices more fun and games more challenging and exciting for all. Having sports in common is just one more way that preconceptions and false ideas are swept away.”
The national Unified Sports program is included in 24 schools across the state and is an initiative of Special Olympics Utah in partnership with the Utah High School Activities Association, which overseas extracurricular programs at all member schools in the state.
Inclusion is a part of the school culture at Skyridge High School, which greatly supports the Unified athletes. “We are extremely proud of the way the athletes competed this year. Everyone worked hard, kept improving, and contributed to our success,” Wiet said.
“Skyridge High School is all about making sure that every student matters and everyone belongs, and this group embodies that ideal. Our season was truly a team effort,” he added.
The Unified Sports program at Skyridge is special because it breaks down barriers and promotes understanding and respect for all individuals, regardless of their abilities.
The team is coached by Jake Figuera and Jess Gifford. “Jake and Jess are amazing teachers and coaches and put the players in positions of having success,” said Ryan Roberts, Unified PE coach at Skyridge High School.
“The Skyridge Unified Sports team takes these tournaments very seriously and they support each other so well,” Roberts continued. “Each player truly cares about everyone on the team.
“It’s amazing to experience, watching these students practice and play so hard,” he said. “They try their very best while caring about others more than their own success.”