Story last updated at 4/29/2009 - 10:44 am
JUNEAU - Andre Bunton has been running since he was three years old. "My dad just said, 'Let's run,'" Bunton remembers - and so he did. At age six, he ran nine miles.
Bunton, a sophomore at Juneau-Douglas High School, is now preparing to travel farther than he ever as before, as a participant in the Down Under International Games this summer in Australia.
"I hope to get out of Juneau and see another place," Bunton said. "I'm just excited to hear different accents (and) languages. And be with other runners who train in different atmospheres."
The games are run by International Sports Specialists, Inc. as a training experience for student athletes from around the world. Bunton will participate with approximately 2,000 others from across the world, including 350 from the United States - and one other from Alaska.
"I'm going to represent half of Team Alaska," he said, smiling.
Bunton was nominated to attend by JDHS track and field coach Scott May, who will accompany him to Australia and be a team leader for other athletes from Alaska, Nevada and New England.
May named a number of reasons he nominated Bunton to attend the event: Bunton is always on time for his practices and meets; he's never missed a practice or a meet in two seasons; he's the first person to volunteer his time to help with any team activity or fundraising; he is dependable; he always succeeds or excels above and beyond; he has donated community service willfully and joyfully; he has maintained a 4.0 GPA for two seasons; he has the overall ability to contribute to his team's success; and he has participated at the state level.
Bunton's travels begin June 26, but he needs to raise $5,000 before June 1 to pay for his trip. A&P and Safeway have already donated money, and he held a spaghetti feed and dessert auction last weekend. For every $10 someone donates, that person will receive a raffle ticket for a chance to win an all-expense-paid trip to Australia at the same time Bunton travels - including meals and a five-star hotel.
Bunton has ran cross-country and track for the past five years, since he began middle school. He likes distance running best, but he said he's willing to compete in any event.
"I'm like the team decathlete," he said. "I do everything."
At JDHS he's won the Going the Extra Mile Award and the Lyndon Ellefson Spirit Award.
"He's doing well. That's all we ever hear," said Jennifer Rodriguez, his mother. "Not just in sports. It's been quite an awesome experience to be his mom. Everything he puts his hands to he does well."
A 4.0 student, Bunton said he definitely wants to go to college and is keeping his options open by keeping his grades up.
Bunton said this summer he plans to run every day with his friend Zach Bursell, and hopes to help the track team win a state championship next year.
"The (biggest) reason why I'm still running is the cross-country team," Bunton said. "We've become like a family. We don't mind each other beating each other..
"The reason I stayed (with track and field) was just that the team was so great. That's my life, the team."
To learn more or contribute to Andre's fundraising efforts, call his mother Jennifer Rodriguez at 209-0540.
"He has called or e-mailed or written everybody who has given him a donation," Rodriguez said. "I really admire him for that."