Tracey Gordon, a two-time state qualifier with the high school's cross county and track and field teams, is a state representative on the U.S. team during this year's Down Under Sports tournament, which started Sunday.
Held at Griffith University's Gold Coast Campus in Queensland, the three-day competition includes athletes from the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
These athletic programs "use the common language of sports to bridge the continents and provide a forum for athletes from around the globe to compete head to head in the sport they love," said organization president George O'Scanlon. Over the years, the organization has brought together tens of thousands of individuals from across the United States.
"I was really surprised," Gordon said regarding her selection for what her mother called a small-scale version of the summer Olympic games. "Initially, I didn't know how we got selected or who selected me."
Her chance to compete in the "land down under" actually started two years ago when she qualified for the 4A state track and field meet in the 200-meter event.
The teen is no stranger to athletic competition. In sixth grade, she started running track and field events. Over time, she branched out into events like the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes as well as the long jump. Her average time in the 100-meter alone was 12.76 seconds.
"My dad used to run track, and I just always knew I'd enjoy it," she said as she reflected on what drew her into the sport.
Her mother, Karen Gordon, admitted that her daughter's enthusiasm for competitive sports is vastly different from her early childhood aspirations.
"My husband said that Tracy was going to be an athlete, and I kept telling him, 'No, she's going to be a ballerina,' " she said. "She's a wonderful ballet dancer."
Gordon's desire to compete led her to join the high school's freshman and sophomore basketball team last season. She then joined the high school's cross country squad last fall. Despite a rocky start, her determination to lead the pack in these five-kilometer races paid off with her second trip to state-level competition.
With a diverse interest in short-range and long-distance styles of running, the teen had to adopt different training regimens to prepare. Training for the shorter races, for example, focuses heavily on a fast start right out of the blocks at the starting line.
"Starting off at a fast speed is really important," she said.
People can't start off slow and build up momentum if they hope to win the 100- or 200-meter dashes, Gordon added. Once the gun fires, it's a straight shot that doesn't let up until the runners reach the finish line.
In addition to the 200-meter race in Australia, the teen was expected to join the women's relay team and could also try out for the long jump event. To get prepared, she joined the high school's bigger, faster and stronger training program. It included two hours of intensive training each morning from Monday to Friday.
In addition, she would run laps around her neighborhood or run around the high school track to maintain her stamina.
"My strength was not quitting," she said. "What keeps me motivated is that I always want to keep doing better. I want to perfect my sport and be the best that I can."
In addition to training, Gordon and her family held a series of fund raisers to help offset the cost of travel and other expenses associated with this international experience.
The teen is no stranger to international experiences. Twelve years ago, her family was stationed at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan.
During her visit to Australia this week, she hopes to fulfill a lifelong dream of seeing kangaroos and koalas up close and personal in addition to touring a rain forest.
"I also hope to get a chance to meet many new people" during this unique experience, she said.
The opportunity to learn new techniques to perfect her athletic abilities is a bonus, she added.
"That type of exposure is good," her mother said. "It was a privilege for her to go."