Pushing the limits

Local sophomore named 2017 U.S. Paralympics All American

Centennial sophomore Cathryn Gray has been named a 2017 U.S. Paralympics Track and Field All-American.
Centennial track and field coach Michael Higgins and sophomore Cathryn Gray celebrate Gray’s career achievements.
Cathryn Gray participates in the 2017 Adaptive Sports USA Junior National Championships in Wisconsin.

I could not be today where I am without sports,” said Centennial High School sophomore Cathryn Gray.

Already an accomplished student, Gray keeps busy between Beta Club, student council, chorus and one of her greatest loves: sports. Most recently, her dedication has led her to be named as one of the few 2017 U.S. Paralympics Track and Field High School All-American for both discus and javelin.

Along with 70 other athletes across the nation, Gray was recently honored by the U.S. Paralympics, a division of the United States Olympic Committee and Team USA. Now in its eighth year, the list honors the top high school track and field athletes who have a Paralympic-eligible impairment, based on their performances in the 2017 season.

“There’s less than 40 female high school athletes in America that received High School All-American status,” said Michael Higgins, Centennial’s track and field coach. “Cathryn was the only one in Georgia.”

“The experience in itself is a win,” Gray said. “I feel honored because not only is it great to be recognized for my accomplishments, but I’m able to be a role model for other girls and to show them that they can excel in any sport that they choose and excel in school. I just want to be a good role model for them. And I don’t take that lightly. It’s really important to me.”

Gray was diagnosed at birth with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that permanently affects body movement and muscle coordination. The condition affects the left side of her brain and body.

“But I don’t let it define me,” Gray said.Instead, Gray has focused on doing her best and living without boundaries. Her parents have likewise always encouraged her to stay active.

“They started me with different sports groups – dance first, then T-ball, then kayaking and rock climbing,” Gray said. “Then I got into track and field with BlazeSports… Sports not only helps with my physical abilities – like mobility and flexibility. It also helps with my self-esteem and confidence.”

But at first, Gray said, she was reluctant to try track and field.

“I wasn’t sure if I could do that,” Gray said. “But then I tried it, and I loved it. It’s really helped me overcome my disability. It has made me more confident and more healthy all around”

Gray is now an active member of BlazeSports America, a local nonprofit benefiting children, adults and veterans with disabilities. She said that being a part of a team is one of the best parts of sports and that she frequently helps new members.

“It’s so nice to be a part of a team, whether it’s Centennial or BlazeSports,” Gray said. “It helps me reach my goals and also go farther than I ever thought I could.”

Higgins said that Gray is constantly surprising him and the team with her accomplishments and teamwork.

“Cathryn is extremely dedicated and works very hard to excel in her competitions,” Higgins said.

“But what’s so awesome about her is that she takes as much joy and pleasure in seeing her teammates excel… She is most definitely an ambassador for adaptive sports and BlazeSports. Her teammates sometimes enjoy coming to practice to see her more than coming to train. She’s a leader.”

Gray has been invited to further Team USA Development camps and competitions, as well as to compete in the World Games in Sant Cugat, Spain, this coming summer. She will also compete for Centennial High School track and field in the upcoming season. ■


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