OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) – Between the hurdles and the sprints at an Oshkosh West track meet, there is one can’t-miss event – the mile – because Levi Kiefer is competing.

Levi is a freshman on the Wildcats’ track and field team and he has Down Syndrome. As a three-sport athlete, Levi’s no stranger to team sports, but there’s something unique about the excitement and support at a track meet.

“He likes to get us all together, we put our hands in, and yell ‘sprints’ on three,” said Leo Ulrich, a junior on the team.

Leo and a fellow junior, Mateo Romero, serve as Levi’s student mentors. The three form a trio that works out together, and on meet days, Leo and Mateo help Levi prep for races.

Leo credits Levi as one of the main reasons people come out to practice and are eager to compete. At any given moment, you can find Levi jumping into the arms of his teammates, practicing the high jump, and messing around with his classmates. And then, of course, competing in the mile.

As Levi races around the track, he has family, friends, and teammates stationed around to encourage him to keep running. Through a huge grin, Levi tends to acknowledge them all.

“You know, his time could be a little faster if he stopped high-fiving and giving knucks to everyone,” Levi’s mother Julie Kiefer laughed. “We have to yell at him ‘keep running’ because he’s too busy giving high fives.”

“It almost brings a tear to my eye when you watch Levi run the mile. Because you’ll see everyone cheering, and not just Oshkosh West kids, but kids from other schools,” said Stephanie Polak, the head boys track coach. Polak teaches special education during the school day and advocates for inclusion in sports.

Polak noted the confidence and independence her students with special needs gain from competing but also focuses on how including everyone on the track team teaches leadership skills.

Kiefer usually runs three laps during the mile race. When he’s finished, he gathers a group of teammates for a final cheer at the finish line.

With Levi’s spirit so engrained in the Wildcats’ program, there’s plenty to cheer about.