Special education students racing, jumping, and tossing for UIL glory

Published: Mar. 3, 2022 at 4:56 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 3, 2022 at 6:59 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Even at a high school competition, it was all a positive atmosphere at People’s Bank Stadium Thursday morning. With the spring-like temperatures in the backdrop, athletes from Frenship, Lubbock-Cooper, Levelland, and Canyon Randall laced up their sneakers for a “unified” track and field season. The program was implemented by the University Interscholastic League last spring. It allows general education students to pair up with special education students to participate and win.

“Today, I hope we go home with a gold medal and a smile on our face,” said Frenship senior Gavin Phillips, who is paired up with Christian Manley. This spring, the two hope to punch their ticket to go to this year’s state championship meet in San Antonio.

Thursday’s events included the long jump, shot put, and the 4 x 100m relay.

“It’s UIL, so actually, we can win State in it, so it’s very competitive. We get students from our special ed program, as well as our regular ed program, and we pair them up together, and we’re just one big team ‚” said Frenship coach Kayci Smith, who is also the special education teacher and cheerleading sponsor. “And since this is UIL, there are certain criteria that we have to follow, and you’re trying to be as competitive as possible. Since I’m the coach, I’m the one that looks at it and kind of pairs them together. It just kind of happens naturally.”

While these athletes compete for UIL honors, Manley sees great value beyond the track.

“I get to meet a lot of new people and try to make a lot of new friends,” he said.

While Coach Smith is tasked with pairing up the best teams, she says the camaraderie among students has made her job easier.

“Some of our athletes have already picked their partner and who they want to be with because they already have a relationship with them,” Smith said. “You would be amazed at the fact of half of these kids are already sitting at lunch with some of our partners.”

Phillips is no stranger to the loud cheers at People’s Bank Stadium. Last fall, he took the field as a wide receiver for the Frenship Tigers football team. More than anything, he wants Manley to remember these meets long after they and others have crossed the finish line.

“We’re out here for people like Christian, to provide themselves a smile and a happy memory that we can all remember- including the impact it makes on myself and the participants as well,” he said.

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