Unified sports emphasize inclusion, good sportsmanship and fun above winning and accolades.
But that doesn’t mean the athletes can’t celebrate a good win, and the Keene High unified track team had plenty to celebrate at Wednesday’s state championship at Alvirne High School in Hudson.
The Blackbirds finished as the state runner-up with 115 points, coming in behind champion Londonderry (149.5) but ahead of the remaining nine teams.
“It feels great,” Keene Coach Dan Gruber said. “Everyone worked really hard this year and they came together and competed really well.”
The team also had three individual state champions among its athletes: senior Matt DeRaps in the boys’ 200-meter dash (28.22 seconds), sophomore Sierra Hamel in the girls’ 200 (37.78) and junior Tyler Murphy in the boys’ shot put (35 feet, 3.5 inches).
DeRaps also took second in the long jump (12-06) and third in the 100 (13.73), while Hamel was third in the 100 (18.06) and fourth in the long jump (7-02).
“Sierra, just as a sophomore, she had her best meet by far; I was just really impressed,” Gruber said. “Matt DeRaps is always great. I’m not as surprised, because Matt DeRaps is always great.”
Gruber said Murphy would’ve competed in more events, but he suffered a foot injury late in the season and had to be pulled from everything except the shot put.
“He ended up having ligament damage in his foot, so I had to cut him from all the other events. He put it all in the shot put and got first place this year,” Gruber said.
Sophomore Curtis Cote finished third in the shot put (25-5.5), and the Birds had two more scoring finishes in the relay events.
DeRaps and Hamel paired with partner athletes Kelly Chapdelaine and Connor Johnston to place fourth in the 4x200-meter (2:11.32), while DeRaps, Chapdelaine, Johnston and Anthony Knight took second in the 4x100 (58.59).
The partner athletes also had their own competition, and Keene had a number of scoring finishes in that area as well.
Chapdelaine — a senior in her third year with the unified team — led the way, taking first in the girls’ 100 (14.59) and 200 (29.30) and second in the shot put (24-05).
“She is really another coach out there,” Gruber said. “I actually looked into having her hired as an actual coach, but the policy is she has to graduate first. But she’s that mature, and she’s extremely athletic … and the kids really look up to her.”
Other scoring partners included Johnston, a freshman, getting sixth in the boys’ 100 (14.96) and eighth in the 200 (30.06); freshman Gethe Thurman, fifth in the girls’ shot put (19-1.5); senior Nathan Appel, fifth in the boys’ shot put (28-04); freshman Bradley Hamel, seventh in boys’ shot put (27-09); freshman Ian Raffensberger, seventh in the boys’ long jump (11-05); sophomore Riley Chamberlain, eighth in the girls’ long jump (9-0); and freshman Eliza Ballero, 10th in the girls’ 100 (16.68).