Numbers boost Fishers unified track team


For the Fishers High School’s Unified Sports track and field team, there was definitely strength in numbers.

“At 98 students, this was our largest team we’ve ever had, with a 50/50 mix of returning students and new students,” Tigers coach Patrick Schooley said. “What made it special was that there were valuable contributions from all ability levels in every event and from veterans and rookies. The senior leadership was especially strong with this team. The students train hard and they set very lofty goals for themselves.”

The Tigers finished second June 1 in the IHSAA Unified Track and Field State Finals in Bloomington. Elkhart was the champion with 124 points, followed by Fishers with 112 points. Schooley, whose team was second in the 2021 state finals, has been the coach since the program started in 2015. Unified Sports teams are made up of general education students (partners) and students receiving special education services for developmental or intellectual disability (athletes).

Schooley said this team developed camaraderie.

“With such a large team and so many new students, that team bond wasn’t formed immediately, but it didn’t take long,” Schooley said. “Many of the new team members were invited to join by friends, or they joined the team together based on encouragement from others. Placing a large team into 10 squads of nine to 10 students each helps to create those bonds quicker.”

Schooley’s three sons are all involved with the team.

“Akeem runs the 100 meters and does long jump,” Schooley said. “Aaron runs the 100 meters and anchors the 400 relay, and Colin is a 2020 Fishers High School graduate and he is now a volunteer graduate assistant coach.”

Aaron Schooley, a freshman, finished second in a mixed 100 meters heat and Akeem, a junior, placed third in the same heat and was third in the long jump.

“I wasn’t too surprised by our team results as I thought we could have a very good day scoring and we had some students with great performances, personal bests in every event, namely Evan Berding winning his 100 meters heat. That was my highlight of the day.”

Fishers senior Bennett Gorak won his flight in the shot put. Tigers junior Brock Hunsaker won a mixed 400-meter heat and junior teammate Robert Barrett scored points by finishing third in another 400 heat. Senior Andrew Wheeler was second in his long jump flight.

The Tigers were fifth in the girls 400-meter relay in Section 1 while the boys were second in 400 relay in Section 2. The Tigers captured sectional and regional titles before the state finals.