GROTON, N.Y. — A young Groton native is gearing up to make her way to compete in the 2017 Special Olympics Winter World Games.

Kinsey Henry, 17, will venture to Austria this month to take part in the Olympic snowshoeing event. She is the only person from Tompkins County who will be competing.

Kinsey, who has been training in snowshoeing for three years, said she found out she was going to Austria a year ago. “I’m excited – I think I’m ready to just go,” she said.

Kinsey’s father, Kevin Henry, said Kinsey’s special education teacher suggested getting her into special Olympics five years ago, and her primary sport started out as bowling. But both Kinsey and her father agree she is a runner at heart. Kinsey said she takes part in numerous sports, including track & field, volleyball and soccer in addition to snowshoeing and bowling.

“Three years ago she started snowshoeing, just to try out something different,” Kevin said. “ Kinsey is a runner, she likes to do track and stuff like that.”

Olympic snowshoeing events, which are similar to track and field events, offer both sprints and longer endurance races. Kinsey said she would be competing in the 100-meter and the 200-meter events  and expects to race against up to eight other people per heat.

“I think I’m just focusing on my training and making sure that I’m ready,” Kinsey said.

However, both Kinsey and her father said training on snowshoes has been nearly impossible lately with the lack of snow in Tompkins County. “Right now we’re just walking and running – that’s all we can do because there’s no snow right now,” Kinsey said.

While the physical challenges of preparing for the Winter Games has been difficult, Kinsey said that what’s even more difficult has been dealing with the attention that comes with her success as an athlete.

“What’s more amazing is where she came from, to be honest,” Kevin said. “Kinsey is on the autism scale and doing interviews and everything. That’s really amazing for her.”

Despite the lack of snow, Kinsey has been  doing some intense training. Two weekends ago, she competed in the State Games in Poughkeepsie, which presented its own set of challenges – she was the only girl competitor in her heat.

Kevin said it this hasn’t often happened in past years, but since Kinsey’s competitors are often older and there aren’t many young women who compete in snowshoeing. “Kinsey is one of our youngest members, so we are trying to encourage more young people to get involved. It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of commitment, so it’s a little tough.”

Kinsey was placed against five other young men in her snowshoeing events for the State Games – but she didn’t let that get her down. “If you’re going to do a sport in the Special Olympics, you have to put your heart and soul into it, because if you don’t and you don’t show up to all the practices you need…you can’t go to states and then you can’t compete,” she said.

Kinsey will be leaving for Austria on March 11 for two weeks. You can check out the Winter games and keep up with Kinsey here.

Featured photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Henry.

Alyvia Covert

Alyvia is a Crime Reporter with The Ithaca Voice. She graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Journalism and Photography.