Unified soccer ends undefeated season on a high note

Addy Ehleiter and Monica Jarosz

On Wednesday, April 27, Fossil Ridge High School’s Unified soccer team ended their season with a win against Fort Collins High School. Not only did the team finish as City Champions, they came out undefeated. 

With ten minutes left in the game, the team was down three points with a score of 6-3 against Fort Collins. The team worked together to come back and score four goals in ten minutes, with the final, tie-breaking goal being scored in the last minute. 

The Unified soccer team is made up of peer helpers and buddies. The role of being a helper means cheering, ensuring the opportunity to play sports, and supporting the buddies. Buddies are oftentimes special needs students who may not otherwise have opportunities to play on a sports team. 

The team this year is twenty students, over half of which are seniors. Ava Flake, a senior and a peer helper on the team, has been a team member on the Unified soccer and basketball teams for all four years of high school. Prior to playing Unified, Flake had played soccer competitively. Having watched her older brother as a peer helper, she knew she would also want to get involved. 

Flake describes the team as a “group of accepting people [that] support each other and… love each other and Have fun while [they] do it.” 

As a peer helper, the individual relationships she has made with people on the team are the part of the Unified community that she will miss the most. 

Head coach, Kim Gardner, a Fossil staff member, is passionate about the team and extremely proud of how the season went. Previously, Gardner has “done all things soccer,” from playing in college to coaching club and varsity. Several years ago, Dr. Julie Chaplin asked her if she would be interested in coaching the Unified soccer team they were beginning to form at Fossil. Gardner instantly knew she wanted to be involved because it combined her two passions of Special Olympics and soccer. “It was like this perfect marriage of the two things I love… it is all joy,” says Gardner.

Fossil Ridge High School’s Unified helpers and buddies pictured scoring a goal. (Provided by Ava Flake)

One of the most incredible things about Unified soccer other than their goal to have fun, be a part of a bigger community, and play soccer, is the commitment. The team practices one day a week with the addition of one game a week. “It would be cool to have more people behind it, to really see the beauty that it is…once you watch a game, you’re like ‘oh my gosh, I want to be a part of that,’” says Gardner.

Unified sports occur year round at Fossil, including Unified flag football, basketball, soccer, and cheer. Along with the Special Olympics hosted by Fossil in the spring, there are many opportunities provided for student involvement. “It’s a really good way to get involved in the school and an underappreciated community,” says Flake.

Many of the Unified sports will be saying goodbye to seniors as this year wraps up. Everyone who is interested is encouraged and welcomed to reach out and join next year. You can head to this website for more information.