Elkhart brings home a Unified state title

Elkhart Unified Track coach Todd Sheely called it "magical."

That word was used to describe the celebration that took place for the team after winning the state title on Saturday at Indiana University.

The Lions finished with 124 points and beat out runner-up Fishers by 12 points. Rounding out the top five schools were Valparaiso (102), McCutcheon (89), Bloomington South (88), Pendleton Heights (88) and Noblesville (88).

"To celebrate at the end was magical," said Sheely. "I'm very proud of the team."

Sheely also was the head coach on the 2018 Elkhart Memorial Unified Track team that won the state title.

The Lions leader compared the two championships.

"I think it's different," Sheely said. "In 2018, the Elkhart Memorial Unified Track program was new and kind of figuring it out. The kids bought in and performed well.

"The program is older now and been around longer. We have about 40 members on the team and the growth has been good.

"What feels the same is lifting that trophy and seeing the kids smile and hug and know they accomplished something together. To me that's the championship."

Both the Elkhart Memorial and Elkhart Unified Track team were unbeaten during regular season meets, along with being sectional and regional champions.

"That's pretty awesome," Sheely said about repeating those accomplishments.

"I was part of the only state title in Elkhart Memorial history and part of the first state title in Elkhart Lions history. I'm proud to be a part of the Unified Track program."

Unified Track combines athletes with and without intellectual disabilities and those athletes compete together in traditional track and field events.

It was the third straight season that Elkhart advanced to state. The Lions finished fifth last year and fourth two years ago.

For the second straight year, sophomore Cassidy Cook was a member of the team.

"All of this is just so amazing," said Cook about winning a state title. "Everyone was crying, jumping and hugging. It was so great that we got this far with this team."

Cook, who competed in the 100 meters, explained why she wanted to be a part of the team.

"I always had an interest in helping people with special needs," Cook said. "I wanted to be a part of this. It has just been great. It means so much to have a teammate that's your best friend."

A first team All-State honor is earned if you place first in a section or flight. Honorable mention is given to athletes that finish second in a section or flight.

On Saturday, Elkhart got first place finishes from Leland Hedricks in section six of the mixed 100, from Kamari Hennings in section two of the mixed 400 and from its boys in section one in the 400 relay. On that relay were Katravon Underwood, Logan Jellison, Colin Krempec and Juvens Coleman.

The Lions got second place in the girls 400 relay section one (Karley Greenway, Brynne Fritz, Digna Quintanilla, Akaijah Baker), mixed 100 section four (Mia Reinholtz) and five (Baker), mixed 400 section two (Tommy Asbury), mixed long jump flight one (Jayvrey Stokes) and flight five (Melquiz Maradiaga), mixed shot put flight one (Tumarye Morris), flight four (Hedricks) and flight five (Aron Carillo Aviles).

"Seeding can impact things," Sheely said. "We had a kid seeded sixth in the long jump and he finished second. We had a kid seeded fifth in the shot put and he got second and we had a kid seeded fifth in the 400 and he got second.

"But I felt our kids could improve, but probably all the schools think that. The track was wet at the end and our kids persevered and did what needed to be done."