BROWNSVILLE — On a thoroughly windy afternoon, track and field athletes from all six Brownsville Independent School District high schools participated Tuesday in the inaugural Rio Grande Valley Unified Interscholastic Area track meet at Veterans Memorial Early College High School.
Teams of special needs athletes, each paired with non-disabled counterparts, competed in boys and girls four by 100 relays, long jump, shot put and 100-meter and 400-meter races. Scoring was on a team basis.
The meet marked a milestone in a 12-year campaign by Brownsville businessman Sergio Zarate and others to get Zariah’s Law passed. The measure authorizes competitive sports in the public schools for special needs students
Zarate daughter Zariah Zariah, a special needs student, attends Veterans Memorial. Her father, with help from others on both sides of the political aisle, got Senate Bill 776 passed in the 87th Texas Legislature on her behalf.
The law is intended to make competitive sports for special needs children commonplace, not just for the competitive aspect but also so that they receive the long term-benefits of coaching and being part of a team.
BISD has been working since last year to implement Zariah’s Law. The top three teams of special needs athletes paired with non-disabled partners were to advance to regional competition, just like in every other UIL high school sport, from football to basketball, baseball, swimming and diving and track and field.
Zarate took a measure of satisfaction in seeing the unified track meet come to fruition, saying the winds that buffeted the meet heralded change. He said he’s gotten word that golf and tennis would be added next year.