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2 Utah high schools will be competing in the national Special Olympics

Wasatch High School's Unified Basketball team will be competing at the national Special Olympics USA Games in Florida. The team found out Thursday. (Meghan Thackery, KSL-TV)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

TOOELE — We should all have a teammate in life like Nathan Olcott.

He's a soccer player at Tooele High School, and for as competitive as the game is, Olcott tries to keep it simple.

"Something about running around and kicking a soccer ball, there's something fun about it," he said.

It's important for Olcott and his teammates to have fun. They play on the Tooele Unified Soccer team, which is under the umbrella of the Special Olympics.

Wednesday morning, the team played a little exhibition game in front of its student body during an assembly.

The players say it was nice for them to hear so many cheers from their classmates.

"It is a school team," said coach Tally Lundgreen. "They play on this team, and they represent the school. And an awesome thing is it gives them the opportunity to belong in school because it's their team."

However, the real cheers came when Utah first lady Abby Cox had a big announcement for the team after its match. The team soon found out what the assembly was really about.

"Tooele High School has been picked out of hundreds of schools across the country to play at the Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida," said Cox.

It's a big deal to represent Utah and Tooele in the national Special Olympics.

Only one other school has done it in Utah. That was three years ago. Now, Tooele will join that list.

"I think we always wanted to go, but we never knew it was going to happen," said Olcott.

Tooele wasn't the only high school in Utah getting this news.

Thursday morning, during a student assembly at Wasatch High School in Heber, its Unified Basketball Team played an exhibition game.

After the game, Cox announced they, too, will be going to the National Special Olympics.

The crowd started cheering for the team.

For the athletes, they couldn't believe it and loved sharing the moment with their classmates.

"That means, for me, they're like my fans," said Hanna Homer, who is on the Wasatch Unified Basketball Team.

Currently, about 40 schools in Utah participate in Unified Sports. It's part of Cox's "Show Up" initiative to get more schools involved.

"You saw kids chanting 'MVP!' You saw kids just screaming at the top of their lungs for these kids. Traditionally, and maybe even when we grew up, that wasn't always the case," said Cox.

Society sure has come a long way with special education.

For as much more as there still is to do, though, celebrating these two teams is a great start.

"To see all their hard work, pay off for them and to get to this point to go national, it's just awesome," said Sami Graham, who is the coach of the Wasatch Unified Basketball team.

Gold medal or not, they're already winners.

Alex Cabrero

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