Aveana Hund-Gately is breaking stereotypes on event at a time. The freshman at Carbondale Area is intellectually disabled, but thanks to the Unified Track and Field program, this Charger knows she's just like everyone else.
"Push it to my limit," Hund-Gately said. "It proved to me that there's a world of opportunities and I'm happy for that."
Every athlete competes in at least one track and one field event, alongside students without disabilities -- their partners. Carbondale Area Head Coach Samantha Masco says it are those bonds that truly unify unified track.
"These students have been much more social," Masco explained. "They're joining other clubs in school. They're sitting with their friends at the lunch table, saying 'hi,' high-fiving and it's spreading throughout the school, which is great."
But don't just take her word for it.
"It's meant everything," Carbondale Area sophomore athlete Aiden Kelly said. "I really enjoy being on the team. It's just awesome. I get to meet new people, old friends, new friends."
"Honestly, our team has become more like a family," Carbondale Area junior partner Olivia Manarchuck added. "They're almost like my little brothers and sisters and I just love seeing all the smiles that are put on all of these kids' faces."
"People would say hi to me, like a lot of people every single day," Hund-Gately said. "They keep asking, like 'what is your special secret to get popular?'"
"Sports is such a great vehicle for these students to forge friendships and bonds that'll last far beyond their time on the track," Masco added.
The Unified Track and Field program in Lackawanna County started with just Carbondale, Abington Heights and Valley View, but it's already grown to eight schools in just two years and they're hoping it grows even larger in the future.
"I think every school around the area should have this," Kelly said. "It's a really good program."
"Spread throughout the world and show people what they can do," Hund-Gately summarized.
All eight teams in the county will compete in a district meet, Monday at Abington Heights.