ELLSWORTH — Autumn Paul and her family are far from the traveling type. After an unexpected item arrived in the mail back in fall, that’s about to change.
Early one morning back in November, the Ellsworth High School sophomore walked in to school just as she would any other day of the year. Soon after she arrived, though, Paul was informed something was waiting for her in the front office.
“I was confused because I wasn’t expecting anything,” Paul said. “They just told me to come down. I had no idea what was going on.”
Earlier that morning, the Paul residence had received a letter from the other side of the world in Gold Coast, Australia. Upon reading it, her mother, Kelley, drove it to the high school for it to be delivered to her daughter.
The letter informed Autumn that she had been one of select few athletes selected to participate in this year’s Down Under Sports competition in Gold Coast, Australia. The program, which holds its annual competition in July, had selected her to represent Maine in outdoor track and field.
Although no one in the Paul family had even heard of Down Under Sports prior to receiving the letter, that didn’t matter; the program selects participants based on its own athletic and academic criteria, and it determined Autumn had qualified.
“She was really excited, but it was almost not real in a way because it seemed too good to be true,” Kelley Paul said. “We did some research on it and found out that, yeah, this is the real deal, and she’s been looking forward to it ever since.”
Participants from the United States and all over the world will travel to Gold Coast for the competition, which will run from July 3-12. Athletes are selected to compete in American football, basketball, cross-country, golf, track and field, wrestling and volleyball.
To get to the games, the Paul family must raise money to cover the round-trip costs between Bangor and Australia with connecting flights in Boston and California as well as hotel costs during its stay in Queensland. Kelley Paul said the family’s official fundraiser has raised approximately half of its $5,000 goal.
In the meantime, Autumn is focused on helping Ellsworth’s girls’ basketball team continue to rise through the Class B North ranks before the high school outdoor track season begins in the spring. With the state championships set to be held just a month before she heads off for Australia, she’ll be in good shape when she competes in the shot put, discus throw and race walk.
“I’m a bit nervous to be on a plane, but I can’t wait to be there,” Autumn said. “It will be fun to meet new people and learn about the Australian culture.”