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Bartlett Wins Back-To-Back State Championships in Unified Track

Panthers edged out Northwest by one point to win title

The Bartlett High School Unified Track Team secured back-to-back Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) Track & Field State Championships recently during the state meet at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). Under head coach Jaja Nebo, the team competed in six Unified events: Boys & Girls 100 Meter Dash Relay Unified, Boys & Girls Long Jump Relay Unified, Mixed Shotput Relay Unified, Mixed 4x100 Meter Relay Unified. All events featured Special Olympics Tennessee Athletes competing with and against Unified Partners.

From the start, Bartlett was focused on competing as a team to secure the repeat.

“I feel like I went out with a bang,” said Kalia Smith, who notched the fastest time in the Girls 100 Meter Dash Relay Unified at 12.95 seconds. “It means a lot. My team went out and did what we were supposed to do: win a state championship.”

Courtney Moore, who competed in Boys 100 Meter Dash Relay Unified and Boys Long Jump Relay Unified, was to the point about his emotions on winning the State Champion

“It feels good, said Moore. “I feel honored. It feels great.”

What’s incredible about this Unified experience is that the Unified competitions took place among all the other events taking place during the TSSAA Track & Field State Championships at MTSU. The stands are packed with family, friends and fans. Media is everywhere capturing photos and videos for stories. Plus, every school competing has a tent in the practice area, so all athletes and Unified Partners are surrounded by every other athlete competing at the meet. It’s a true event of inclusion.

“Competing at track has been an amazing experience,” said Smith. “If I could do it all over again, I would. I honestly wish I didn’t graduate this year so I could do it another year. My coaches and my teammates are amazing. It just feels like home, and I feel safe when I’m at practice and competing.”

While Smith wishes she could compete again if not for graduating, for Moore, it was his first time competing at the State Championships.

“It was good and everything I hoped for,” said Moore. “This was my first time going out there. It’s an honor to be doing it. I worked hard. We worked hard. The team worked hard.”

It’s easy to see that coach Jaja Nebo has established a culture of inclusion and positivity around his team. They were dialed in but smiling throughout the event.

“In order to win, you just have to stick together,” said Smith. “It's like we're a family. If you really want it, you must go get it.”

“I learned a lot from coach,” said Moore. “He helped me through a lot this year. And he always encouraged us to get out there and do better every time.”

Witnessing the happiness the team experienced when being named the State Champion was a site to behold. The pride these students felt after winning an intense competition is second to none, and that’s why Unified Sports are important.

“Unified Sports are fun,” said Smith. “It makes you feel good and makes you more ready to compete.”

Simply put, you just must experience it for yourself.

Learn more about Unified Sports and Unified Champion Schools here.

2023 Bartlett High Unified Champions

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