Special triathlon memorializes Nicolet student

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Oct. 29, 2014

Glendale — It was an emotional scene at Nicolet High School on Friday, Oct. 24, when 16 students in the adaptive physical education program overcame their physical and developmental limitations to run, cycle and swim their way to glory in the school's second annual Life Skills Triathlon.

The triathlon was developed last year as a way to teach goal-setting and lifestyle fitness to students in the school's adaptive physical education class. Students from traditional physical education classes helped the triathletes train for the competition. Just like any other athlete would train for a triathlon, the students in the adaptive physical education classes trained for six weeks riding stationary bikes, running around the track and swimming laps in the pool.

"They worked really hard, and they were very proud of themselves," said adaptive physical education teacher Laura Mildebrandt.

During the triathlon, students and teachers cheered on the triathletes with words of encouragement and high fives. The support of the school community brought smiles to the faces of the triathletes as they pedaled, ran and swam their way through the competition.

"These students are usually the biggest cheerleaders for traditional WIAA sports, so it's very special for them to have their classmates and the rest of the school cheer for them," Mildebrandt said.

The triathlon has sparked some friendships between students in the adaptive physical education classes and the traditional gym classes. In addition to helping them train, the traditional gym class students played games with the adaptive students. The week before the triathlon, they did the dance from Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

"They eat lunch with each other, say 'Hi' to each other, and make the adaptive students feel included in their social activities," Mildebrandt said.

This year's triathlon was held in memory of former triathlon participant Lydia Sahin, who lost her battle with cancer in August. In Lydia's honor, the triathletes, students and teachers wore pink shirts — Lydia's favorite color — that said, "We TRI for Lydia."

Lydia's parents were at the triathlon to show their support for their daughter's former classmates. Lydia's mother, Jennifer Sahin, said her daughter benefited from the Life Skills program at Nicolet, which prepares special needs students for post-high school life by teaching independent living skills such as cooking, cleaning and money management at an off-campus apartment.

Sahin said her daughter made great friends through Special Olympics, the Life Skills program and the Life Skills Triathlon.

"Lydia would have absolutely loved this," Sahin said of the triathlon. "It's so positive for the school and the community. Good things have happened in Lydia's memory."

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