By DANNY P. SMITH
Not everyone gets an opportunity to compete in a sport he or she loves halfway around the world.
East Oktibbeha sprinter Kortland Petty has that opportunity and he's getting some help.
International Sports Specialists, Inc., is trying to assist Petty participate in the Down Under Sports Program held this summer in Australia.
Petty is part of the West Central Conference team, which is made up of 35 athletes representing two different states that travel and compete Down Under.
The program has been called the "Mini Olympics of High School Sports" and comes highly recommended by other athletes and coaches throughout the United States.
Athletes that participate Down Under also develop international cultural appreciation and foster a strong pride in being an American.
Petty is anxious about the upcoming trip.
"I feel great about it," Petty said. "It'll be fun to meet new people and communicate with new people. It's going to be a fun experience. I'm excited."
During his time in Australia, Petty will be competing in the 4x400, 4x200, 4x100 and 200-meter run.
Athletes are invited for the program based on their ability to contribute to their teams success.
"They heard about him last year in the state championships and they made him an offer to see if he wanted to run with an AAU squad," East Oktibbeha track coach Randy Brooks said. "So he sent his paperwork in and they accepted him.
"He's worked hard at it and he's deserving of it. He's always the first one at practice and is always the last one to leave. He seems to like track more than he likes any other sport. It's the main one he excels at."
Petty said being able to compete in track at a high level and being noticed by organizations such as the Down Under program wouldn't have been possible if he were not encouraged to be his best early in high school.
"I started in the ninth grade with Coach Brooks," Petty said. "I've been working hard every since. I've just got to keep working hard."
Petty knows he's representing America, the state of Mississippi and East Oktibbeha, which is a point he's not taking lightly.
"It's a big opportunity for me," Petty said. "To look up and see me coming from this school and go somewhere like that, it's probably the first time someone from here has got to go over there."
The major source for Petty's trip will come from voluntary contributions. Donations can be made to Petty online at www.DownUnderSports.com , select Sponsor. To obtain Thank You Tickets for a drawing, contact Petty directly at 662-324-6522.
(Editor's Note: SDN prep writer Joel Coleman contributed to this report.)