Darrell Wyatt, track coach at Maple Mountain High School, pointed to a girl running on the school’s track alongside a child in a blue T-shirt. “This girl who is running, she is qualified for the state in the mile,” he said, “but she’ll get more out of this 50 meter run than she will in the mile.”

The school’s student athletes and Physical Education students teamed up with special needs students from Nebo School District Thursday morning for the annual Superstars Track and Field Day at Maple Mountain High School.

Wearing blue shirts, the special needs students competed with their buddies in events like the long jump, high jump, softball throw and various races, including a 400 meter wheelchair race that always spurs tears. Each special needs student was awarded a medal, and many winners were handed a microphone for a short victory speech.

“It just gives a great opportunity for these student athletes to give back, to give these kids half of what they have on a daily basis,” Wyatt said.

At the finish line, senior Mishonne Marks, a volleyball player, helped hand out medals.

“Right when they cross the finish line, their faces light up,” she said.

Like many of the students, participating in the event has given her perspective.

“It makes me grateful for what I can do,” Marks said.

Some of the racers sprinted on the track, while others were a little more reluctant and required some encouragement from their buddy. One boy, while in the middle of the pack in his race, raised his arms in victory while he ran.

“It’s cool because it spotlights kids who usually don’t get the spotlight,” said Justin Judkins, a wrestling coach.

For the coaches, it’s the opportunity to see their athletes with a new perspective as shy students open up when interacting with the special needs students.

“It’s good for the high school students to take the initiative and take the kids around,” said Jessica Elton, a volleyball coach.

Braley Dodson covers health and education for the Daily Herald.

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