Earlier this fall, it was revealed the Jay High School Unified Sports program, led by Kyle Mather, was recognized as one of 30 top programs in the United States.

It is the only school in Oklahoma to have earned that recognition.

The ESPN sports channel picked the top 30 each year for their honor roll.

Ten areas of accomplishment are measured, the level attained in those areas and how consistently those levels are maintained form the basis for the decision.

This is the second national commendation that has been awarded to Jay teams this year.

Earlier this year, the Fighting Peacocks, a unified baseball team from Jay won gold in Seattle, Washington Special Olympics.

Though the Peacocks are a community team, not high school, the unified teams are of the same composition.

The Fighting Peacocks had a ceremony on the Jay courthouse lawn on July 11, recognizing their earning gold.

More about unified sports

They are composed of half special needs athletes and half partners where they compete alongside each other.

The Jay high school program encompasses many more sports in the program: basketball, volleyball, soccer, bocce, football, track and field.

Mather has been leading the program for six years.

He began with eight participants and has grown it to 49 this year.

The partners volunteer to be a part of the program.

Kathryn Francis, director of Special Olympics of Oklahoma, let Mather know a few weeks earlier, but told him he had to keep it a secret until the official announcement could be made on Sept. 13.

Mather told his kids "You know how lousy I am at keeping secrets and it was killing me not to able to shout it out, put it on Facebook, to tell everyone."

"I am so proud of you. Each of you made this happen, not me," he told his players. “I pushed you hard, but you put in the work and you are the best in the country.

“I always told you, you are the best. Now here's proof you are."

The national banner will arrive in spring and be hung in Bulldog Arena along with the other championship banners earned by Jay High School students.

Kennah Wheeler, a sophomore volunteer, is part of the volleyball team.

She has been a part of the program for three years, since she was asked to join in the seventh grade by the assistant principal.

This is Michael Vaughn's first year. He said he joined because he "wanted to help" and it is "pretty fun."

Vaughn partners in volleyball, but he also additionally competes on Jay's wrestling and basketball team.

Chanel Morehead, a senior in her second year partnering, said "it develops a spot in your heart for the little kids."

She shares in volleyball, basketball and soccer unified sports.

Joey Lunsford, a sophomore partner, said "his mom helped in the program and talked him into it."

He has gone "all in" as he tries to be a part of all unified sports teams. Why all the sports?

"Because it is beautiful fun," he said.