DALTON, Mass. -- As an educator, an administrator and a dad, Aaron Robb had a lot to be excited about on Friday evening.
But as a new era in Berkshire County sports began, one of the biggest highlights was how the game ended.
“What you saw at the end of the game, that’s the culture of the school,” Robb said. “It’s hard to describe, but if you were here and saw what just happened, that is the culture of the school here every day.”
At the end of the first ever Unified Basketball game in Berkshire County, the large and vocal student section in the stands came down on the court and congratulated players from both teams after Mount Greylock’s 38-36 win.
Aidan Barnes and Dakota Sunkis powered Mount Greylock to a come-from-behind win, but the home crowd had plenty to cheer about with the shooting skills of Helen Jamrog, Jillian Menard and Dominique Brown, who each finished in double figures.
Unified Basketball is an initiative of Special Olympics which creates combined teams of special education students and regular ed students for co-ed interscholastic competitions.
Wahconah blazed the trail locally last spring by hosting the county’s first Unified Track and Field squad, a group that went on to finish second at the state championships.
Robb is hopeful that the movement will spread to other Berkshire County high schools.
“They all know about it,” he said. “I think some are flirting with the idea of organizing it. I think organizing it, from what I’ve seen [Wahconah A.D. Jared Shannon] go through, is hard at first.
“But once you hit the momentum, it takes right off. Once the community understands what this is, it takes off.”
It was clear from the opening tip that the Wahconah community got it, which was no surprise for a school that each year has a large contingent of student-athletes in attendance on an autumn Saturday for the Berkshire Buddy Walk sponsored by Berkshire County Arc’s Down Syndrome Family Group.
The school’s Ed Ladley Gym, normally a less than hospitable environment for visiting basketball teams, rang with cheers each time a player from either squad scored a basket … though, understandably, the cheers were a tad louder for the boys and girls in blue.
Robb, sitting in the center of the bleachers, was cheering just as loudly as anyone else as he watched the athletes, including his son Hayden, persevere.
“It’s pretty cool,” the Wahconah High principal said. “We were pretty excited about the fact that we were going to have two Berkshire County teams because most of these teams are going to have to travel to the [Pioneer] Valley.
“I’m equally proud of Wahconah and Greylock.
“As a parent, I’m very proud. You probably noticed it took a lot of effort for [Hayden] to get out there, to do something new, to do something different. But the whole point is to keep pushing the kids to try new things.”
Wahconah’s roster includes Jillian Menard, Sean Day, Sydney Andrews, Piper Bryant, Helen Jamrog, Dominique Brown, Jessica Jones, Anthony Marra, Dillon Marra, Zak Bernardo, Chris Morin, Cam Catelotti, Hayden Robb and Gabe Davis.
Mount Greylock’s team includes Henry Art, Pablo Santos, Faith Karl, Jenaya McCue, Timothy Beliveau, Sarah Egan, Aidan Barnes, Savanna Mabey, Olivia Pallos, Dakota Sunkis, Nicholas Markovic, Clare Sheedy and Julia Ross.
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