ATHENS — The Athens School Board would take some time out of its meeting on Tuesday night to recognize a student-athlete who was able to accomplish something most can only dream of — win a state championship.
Athens sophomore Izaak Hobday won two gold medals at the recent Pennsylvania Special Olympics Fall Festival held at Villanova University.
“What do I know about Izaak? Well, he’s a valued member of our student body — and he’s fast,” said Athens High School Principal Corey Mosher. “He’s a gold medalist and we are super proud of him.”
Hobday would team up with Troy’s Autumn Allen to win the Unified 1,500 meter run. The Wildcat would then go on to win individual gold in the 5,000 meters.
“It was fun,” said Hobday, who said competing in the state meet was “a little bit scary at first.”
While he was thrilled to win gold, Hobday said his favorite part wasn’t about the competition.
“(My favorite part was) meeting new friends,” he said.
Denise Hibbard, who is Izaak’s grandmother, believes competing in Unified track has helped him immensely.
“It’s helped him become more outgoing,” said Hibbard, who noted that Izaak now has the confidence to compete. “He’s always loved to run but has never felt that he could compete with the school (track team). He has found out that he can.”
Athens Superintendent Craig Stage was thrilled to honor Hobday at Tuesday’s meeting.
“We are so proud of Izaak for what he’s done. It’s really remarkable. He’s very proud of those medals and he earned them,” Stage said.
Hibbard praised the school district for their support.
“I cannot commend the school enough for the recognition they have given him through this,” she said.
Mosher also announced on Tuesday that Hobday would be going out for the Athens High track team later this year.
“I think for Izaak it’s going to turn into even more than that because I think he’s going to surprise some people on our track team. I’m really excited for him,” said Mosher.
Athens looking to push Unified Sports
Hobday competed on the first Bradford/Sullivan Unified track team, but the Athens Area School District is hoping that is just the beginning.
The next step will be for Athens students to compete on a Unified bocce ball team.
“I think that will give us even more opportunities for students to be involved,” said Mosher of the bocce ball team.
Unified Sports is a program that unites Special Olympics athletes (individuals with intellectual disabilities) and partners (individuals without intellectual disabilities) as teammates for training and competition.
Athens officials believe it could be an important part of the school district.
“There’s absolutely a push to promote Unified sports throughout Bradford, Tioga, Sullivan (counties). There’s a Unified bocce ball team and we’re looking to get into that. It’s just a great opportunity for everybody to participate on an equal footing,” said Stage.
Mosher echoed that sentiment.
“I think it’s very important that we practice full inclusion. I think it’s important that our special education students have the same equal opportunity as our regular education students and what a morale booster for them to go and compete at their level,” added Mosher.