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High point of Ashley's year

Months of training and anticipation come to a climax at the Florida Special Olympics.

By BEN MONTGOMERY
Published April 29, 2007


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TAMPA - The windows of the cars in the parking lot say SPECIAL OLYMPICS! and TAMPA BOUND! in shoe polish. The folks on the fields at the University of South Florida run and yell and enjoy the day.

The girl sits on the sidewalk outside, number 216 pinned to her chest, a bronze medal around her neck.

"I threw it far, " she says. Then she gives a reporter a high five.

It was a tennis ball, and she won third place.

"I'm hungry now, " she says.

She is Ashley Scalf, 19, a student at Riverview High School. She loves listening to Radio Disney, hanging with her friends and watching the Cheetah Girls and anything starring Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.

And she loves her pets.

"We used to have a pig, " Ashley Scalf says. "His name was Rosco. He ran away. Somebody made him into ham." She smiles.

But most of all she loves the Special Olympics.

"This is what she lives for, " says her mother, Marchita Hutchinson. "She talks about it all year." Her sister, Amber, 17, helps her train.

"My best sister in the whole world, " Ashley says.

Ashley wishes she could play basketball or soccer, but her knee is bad and her mother doesn't want her to get hurt. Maybe next year, her mother said.

This year it's the tennis ball throw and the next event, the 50-meter walk.

Almost time.

"You're up, Ashley, " her mother says.

"Yeah!" Ashley says.

She checks in and takes her mark and takes off. She looks focused at first, then cracks a smile the last 20 meters. Someone pins a ribbon on her chest. She smiles again.

"After this, " she says, "I'm going to go eat some ice cream."

Times photographer Brian Cassella contributed to this report. Ben Montgomery can be reached at bmontgomery@sptimes.com or 813 661-2443.

[Last modified April 29, 2007, 00:56:13]


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