Eighteen-year-old Ellen Boyle has a lot to prove at this weekend's Special Olympics. And she'll be presenting that proof to a very special critic.
"I try hard, the best I can," said the brunette, smiling. "I like to prove myself to me."
So what are her strong points going into this weekend's competition at the U.S. Naval Academy?
"Enthusiasm," said swimming coach Bee Manley. "She loves the competition."
Which doesn't mean she'll have an easy time of it. Despite competing in the Special Olympics forabout nine years, Boyle says she still gets nervous.
The Annapolis teen-ager will be one of 198 students from the county -- including 55 from Central Special School -- competing this weekend.
She willswim in the 25-meter freestyle, the 50-meter backstroke, the 100-meter free style and the 400-meter relay tomorrow.
On Sunday, she'll return to compete in the softball throw, the long jump and the 200-meter runas part of the track and field competitions.
Enid Lee, instructor at Central Special, has coached Boyle for the last nine years and is part of her cheering section.
Boyle is the youngest child of Dorothy and Joseph Boyle of Annapolis. Her three sisters, a brother, two brothers-in-law and her cousins make up the rest of her cheering section.
"My parents are excited. They tell me to try hard," Boyle said.
"Ellen has won several gold medals in the past, especially in swimming," said Lee. "She's been competing in swimming events for over six years."
"I like swimming the best," Boyle said. "Sometimes I can swim like a fish."
Boyle practices swimming once a week with Manley, her coach for the last four years.
"The backstroke isher best," Manley said.
Boyle's enthusiasm and try-hard attitude carry over to other activities. Besides training for the Special Olympics, she works three days a week in a non-paid training position with the housekeeping department of Marriott Courtyard in Annapolis. Shealso has a busy school schedule that includes domestic and academic activities.
"She has training in what we call the four domains," says Jackie Piess, Boyle's homeroom teacher. "The first domain -- the domestic domain -- includes cooking, learning to take care of yourself, planning, setting goals and going out into the community. The second domain is academics. This includes functional learning -- math andreading, skills she can use to live in the world."
"Work is the third domain. The training positions cover this domain. Our students go to school until they are 21. We help them gain experience through training positions in hopes that it will help them get a job when theygraduate."
"The fourth domain is recreation and leisure. The students learn to play fun and functional games and not cheat. We have a camera club that is included in this area."
Adds Piess, "You can'talways find the time for all the things you'd like to get done with these students."
Boyle gets things done and has fun too.
"I've made a lot of friends," she says of the Special Olympics, "and I likeit a lot."