Auna Pines has proven to not only be brave in the attempt, but persistent enough to turn a no into a yes.
The Special Olympics Westside athlete has been a runner since the age of 12. She’s taken a liking to long-distance races. Her motivation, however, was fueled when she did not qualify within the top five finishers for a local race.
“I was very upset, I felt very left out,” Auna recalled.
That was the moment she was determined to stick with running, practicing throughout the following summer for another chance.
The result was an improvement in her mile-run time, going from 9 minutes, 46 seconds down to 8 minutes by her seventh grade year.
“I ran the whole way without stopping and went to the semifinals for cross country,” Auna said.
The natural competitor within wanted more, so her training continued. Like any athlete, there were minor injuries like a twisted ankle along the way. Still, she was determined to push through and turn another year of honing her skills into another year of significant gains.
Once her middle school and high school years of competition were over, Auna initially assumed her days of running races were “at the end of the journey,” too. But friends and co-workers took note of her passion for running and notified her of ways to remain involved. Among the highlights was a top-50 finish and medal in a local “home walk” event.
In 2015, a co-worker then pointed her to Special Olympics.
Auna took it as a personal challenge to prove herself all over again, and her times from the first to her second year improved.
“I’m not going to give up. I’m going to keep practicing every day,” she said.
Now 24, Auna recently completed a wildly successful summer season. At this past year’s Summer Games, she not only claimed silver medals in the 1,500 meters and 4×100 relay races, but a gold in the softball throw, too.
Along the way, Auna has learned that how fast she finishes in a particular race is only one measure of success.
“Winning is not the key – it’s trying,” she said.
Inside the SOSC is a blog managed by staff member Tracy McDannald. It is a more feature-style approach to looking inside what makes Special Olympics Southern California so unique, so special. It is meant to explore the people and their stories. One word at a time.