Unified track and field continues to grow across county

Welcome to the party, Whiteland.

The Johnson County Unified track and field meet never fails to be one of the most enjoyable events on the year’s high school sporting calendar, and the mood at Indian Creek was that much more festive on Tuesday with the Warriors taking part for the first time.

McKenzie Davis, a special needs teacher at the high school, signed on to coach Whiteland’s inaugural team this spring and got a good turnout right away, with 21 athletes and peers coming out. Davis’ staff includes two assistant coaches and two registered behavior technicians (RBTs).

The Warriors hosted a meet for the first time on April 24, welcoming Martinsville. That was a big deal, but not quite the same as getting to share the track with all of their peers from around the county.

“This is fantastic,” Davis said. “The fact that we have this started, and all the other teams here in Johnson County and how inclusive — they’ve all been welcoming and just cheering for everyone. It’s so great to see the partners cheering on athletes, and athletes cheering on partners. We’re all one team, I feel like.”

The initial Unified experience has been even more rewarding than expected for the newcomers.

“It’s definitely different than I thought it was going to be,” Whiteland sophomore Kiersten Achs said. “It’s just a lot more fun, and everyone’s more like family.”

The Warriors joined the host Braves, Center Grove, Franklin and Greenwood as part of the family for Tuesday’s meet, which featured a little bit of everything as it always has.

There was remarkable athleticism on display — Woodmen senior Calveon Dulaney blazed his way to a victory in the 400-meter dash and also long jumped more than 18 feet to edge Franklin’s Josh Brown — along with an abundance of grit.

Grizzly Cub freshman Isiah Patterson lost a shoe shortly after starting the 100-meter dash but pushed himself all the way through the finish line anyway. Then, Robert Dillingham closed out the meet by making a late charge to help Indian Creek’s 4×100 relay team steal a victory from Greenwood, leaving Woodmen anchor Ceniyah Talbert to turn to teammates in mock disgust after being caught from behind without warning.

Unlike most track meets, though, there was no actual agony of defeat — because nobody actually felt defeated. Feelings of ill will toward opponents was non-existent, because here, everyone felt as though they were part of the same team. Braves supporting Woodmen. Warriors high-fiving Trojans.

After the final race, all five teams gathered at midfield for a photo — one big happy family, indeed.

Those who’ve been part of that family for a while were all too eager to welcome yet another school into the fold.

“It’s really fun,” said Indian Creek junior Olivia Pendleton, who is in her third year on the Braves’ Unified team. “We get to meet more people, and they get to learn how to do everything just like we do it.”

Indian Creek has long been at the forefront of the Unified sports movement in Johnson County, but they’re happy to have more company with each passing year. Every season feels bigger and better than the one before it as a result.

“I think it’s really great, just seeing everyone so happy and supportive,” Achs said. “It’s not about the winning; it’s just about having fun with everyone.”

“Everybody loves everybody,” Pendleton added.