Special Olympian Headed for Team USA

Westview’s Garrett Dinning Earns Spot on Team TN in Next June’s Special Olympics USA Games
Posted on 08/19/2021
This is the image for the news article titled Westview’s Garrett Dinning Earns Spot on Team TN in Next June’s Special Olympics USA GamesAt the first Westview Chargers pep rally of the season, roles reversed, and the football team served as the cheering squad after a surprise announcement revealed the school had another champion among them.

“Garrett! Garrett! Garrett!” became the rallying cry when sophomore Garrett Dinning learned of his spot on Team Tennessee for the Special Olympics USA Games scheduled for next June in Orlando, Florida.

The stage was set for the big news by ensuring Dinning had a front row seat among the team. As Principal Jeromy Davidson turned the microphone over to Clinton Smith, Associate Professor for Special Education at the University of Tennessee and director of the Upper West Tennessee Area 7 Special Olympics, the crowd grew quiet. Smith then explained that for the first time, the Special Olympians in the area that includes Henry, Lake, Obion & Weakley counties had produced a gold medalist heading toward the national event. He then turned the crowd’s attention to a segment of the video announcement naming the more than 130 athletes who, after qualifying by either winning gold or silver at the state level, had been selected through a lottery and would be representing on Team Tennessee.

The announcer revealed the four female track stars before naming the males. In moments, the name “Garrett Dinning” appeared on the screen and the crowd roared.

Congratulatory hugs and high fives engulfed Garrett. The shocked 16-year-old made sure to give brother Carson, who had made his way to his side, the biggest embrace.

In an interview after the pep rally and photos with fans, Dinning told media gathered that he was excited about the chance to participate.

“Tell them what you are good at,” coaxed his family.

“The mini-javelin, the long jump,” he replied. “And I’m good at winning.”

Evidence supports the claim as he secured gold medals in the 50 meters race, mini javelin and running long jump competitions to qualify for the national competition.

Parents Jill and Van Dinning acknowledged it had been difficult to keep the secret from their son, having learned of the achievement a week prior.

“It’s been crazy,” she said. “For us to be the first in the area, to have an Olympian in the family is pretty crazy. We’re blessed.”

She expressed thanks for the school and the coaches, acknowledging that “we have a great support system and have had from the day Garrett was born.”

She said she’s already made arrangements for the travel next year.

Dinning isn’t the only one who will be at the games. Smith, who has been part of the Special Olympics since his college years, will be head coach for the Team TN track and field team. The 2022 games will be Smith’s fourth.

“I’ve seen kids who have rarely spoken come out of their shells once they participate in the Special Olympics USA games,” he said. “Parents, years later, will still say thank you.”

Smith also pointed out that those surrounding Dinning for the announcement included previous Special Olympic supporters who had helped fundraise for the area team as part of the annual Polar Plunge event. Among the supporters were Cade Spaulding, Garner Anderson, Mason Johns, Cooper Spaulding, and Nolan Pritchett.

Cade Spaulding and Anderson, both wide receivers, said they were thrilled for the 16-year-old’s opportunity to experience the games and enjoyed helping via events like the fundraiser.

Smith told the crowd that more than 5,500 athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the Caribbean will be at the USA Games which will be broadcast from the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

“We wish Garrett the very best,” noted Davidson, a visibly proud principal who was pleased with having successfully surprised the Special Olympian. “This is a great honor for Garrett, for Westview and for the Martin community.”

hugs at announcement
Surrounded by the Westview Chargers football team during Thursday’s pep rally, Special Olympian Garrett Dinning learned he had earned a place on Team Tennessee for the Special Olympics USA Games scheduled for next June in Orlando, Florida. Dinning is seen here embracing his brother Carson as the team cheers the accomplishment.

family being interviewed WBBJ was present to capture the moment Garrett Dinning learned the news his family had been keeping secret until the pep rally.