Local Special Olympian heads to regional competition with confidence

ARLINGTON Austin Worthing is competing in the Special Olympics for the second time this year, and while he might have other challenges to overcome, a lack of confidence is clearly not one of them.

"My goal is to get to nationals," said the 13-year-old eighth-grader at Post Middle School, who walks with crutches due to cerebral palsy.

"That's a good goal to shoot for," said Kay Bayley, para-educator at Post Middle School. "But this is only your second year in competition, so don't be disappointed if you don't get it."

"Yeah, but I'm pretty good," said Austin, drawing laughter from both Bayley and his mother, Dawn Worthing.

"I told him last year that he might not get the gold," Dawn Worthing said.

As it turned out, Austin came home from the state Special Olympics at Ft. Lewis with three gold medals, one for each event he competed in.

At last year's regional competition in Marysville, Austin scored a gold medal in the 25-meter dash-and-run, a silver medal in the 50-meter dash-and-run, and a bronze medal in the softball throw.

"I could have run or walked," Austin said. "I ran."

As indicated by Austin's subsequent gold medals in each of the three events at state, he actually did better in the state competition than he did at the regionals.

"It was a piece of cake," Austin said. "I wanted to do the 50, 75 and 100-meter dash-and-runs this year, but I'll probably do the same events as I did last year."

Austin has been practicing leg-stretching exercises to make himself stronger, and is quicker than his mom or Bayley in recalling the dates of this year's regional competition, on April 27 at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, and state competition, from May 31 through June 1 at Ft. Lewis.

Austin has been very motivated by the support he's received from family, friends and fellow community members, including the standing ovation he received at a school assembly after coming home with three gold medals last year.

"I think I might retire from the Special Olympics when I'm 20, just to do other things," said Austin, his worldly demeanor drawing more affectionate laughter from his mother and Bailey. In the meantime, he encouraged others who qualify to take part in Special Olympics themselves.

"They really should try it," Austin said. "It's fun and you get a lot of attention. My parents are proud of me and I'm a lot more popular."

Bayley encouraged those who are interested in supporting Austin's trips to the regional and state Special Olympics competitions to contact her at Post Middle School, at 360-435-3458.

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