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Freshman Jose Marquez prepares to throw the shot put during the Cotton Invitational track meet.

There are times, more often than not, where athletes and coaches and parents get caught up in the competitive fire that high school sports conjures. There’s a sense of pride in playing for your school, an assumed duty to perform and win. As a coach, your stake is as significant as the athletes. As a parent, you want your kid to succeed and feel invested on their behalf. It happens to everyone and there’s no shame in it; sports are meant to inspire and infuse all with that flame.

Yet, every now and again we are reminded of a real reason high school sports are so incredible. A person, an event or a story comes along and turns on a light in the darkness. We gather around that light and reflect on its significance, and what it means to us and the greater sporting world in which we partake. Those stories are most important; they produce the furthest ripples, they have the greatest impact.

Jose Marquez is a freshman thrower on the Track and Field team at Hood River Valley High School, where he competes in the shot put and discus throw. Marquez is competing as a Unified Sports athlete, a branch of the Special Olympics that seeks to integrate athletes with intellectual disabilities amongst their peers. Marquez is the first Unified Sports athlete to compete for HRV as far as coach Troy Tactay can recall in his 26 years at the school.

“I love working with Jose,” said Tactay. “He works hard, doesn’t complain, does his best and has a great sense of humor. Jose is a refreshing reminder of what sports is really about.”

It could not have been said better. Hard working, giving it his all and enjoying the team — that’s an athlete if I’ve ever known one. Marquez has competed in several track meets this year, recording a personal best of 16 feet 2.25 inches in the shot put and 25 feet 8 inches in the discus, both at the Centennial meet on March 20. It seems the season holds only more personal bests for Marquez, especially with his attitude.

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