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California Blue Shirt Is in a Lane All His Own

Before the sun rises over Chula Vista, California, Austin Pruitt has already completed 10 miles around the race track, maybe 20 if it’s a good day. He’s out of breath and drenched in sweat but still wears a smile. That’s the attitude that makes Austin a champion on — and off — the track.

Austin, who was born with cerebral palsy, is a Paralympic wheelchair racer with a bronze medal from the 2011 World Para Athletics Championship. He’s going for another medal this week in London. He’s also a top sales associate at the Best Buy store in Chula Vista.

None of this is by accident.

“When you are trying to sell stuff, it’s either a yes or a no. There’s no maybe. And in track you are either going to win, or you’re not. You either show up to compete, or you don’t,” he said.

He definitely shows up. That’s one reason why General Manager Ken Schmidt hired Austin as a seasonal employee last year, despite Austin’s intense training schedule.

“He seemed to really have a focus on where he wants to go and what he wants to do,” Ken said.

Going the extra mile

Austin, who loves tech, didn’t disappoint when he first donned a blue shirt. He was an instant star in the digital imaging department, going above and beyond for customers. In fact, Austin purchased his own drone and brings it to the store to show customers how to use it.

“When I look at going into work, I look at the task in front of me, and I know it’s up to me to get it done,” Austin said. “It’s up to me to know the answers to customer’s questions — just like in track it’s up to me to know how to answer back when someone goes to try and pass me.”

Eyes on the prize

Austin credits the store’s flexibility with part-time hours for allowing him to chase his dreams. Ken is now managing another location, but the Chula Vista store’s new general manager, Martin Chavez, is just as supportive.

“He’s electrifying. I was blown away when I met him,” Martin said. “He’s a wonderful team member, and he has so much support here.”

Austin will need that support when he returns from the World Championships later this week because there will be no rest. Not when the next big race will be the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

To follow Austin’s journey on the track you can follow him on Facebook.