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Katie Downing returns home to serve as Grand Marshal at homecoming parade

Katie Downing knows all about the Pendleton Heights (Ind.) High School homecoming parade.

The annual event usually starts at the local park or middle school and winds through town before finishing at the high school.

Downing took part in the parade as a trombone player in her high school's marching band.

Now eight years after she graduated from high school, Downing will take part in the parade again. This time, she won't be walking. And she won't be carrying a musical instrument.

She will be the featured attraction as the parade's Grand Marshal.

A 2005 World bronze medalist in women's freestyle wrestling, the 26-year-old Downing will serve as Grand Marshal of the 2006 Pendleton Heights High School homecoming parade on Friday, Sept. 15. Downing leaves Sept. 22 to compete at the 2006 World Championships in Guangzhou, China. She is scheduled to compete at 67 kg/147.5 pounds on Oct. 1.

Downing's high school wrestling coach, Dave Cloud, recommended that she be Grand Marshal of this year's parade. Downing grew up in Pendleton, Ind., a town of around 5,000 people located about 30 miles north of Indianapolis.

"Obviously, I'm honored that my high school wrestling coaches recommended me for Grand Marshal and that the organizer of the parade, Mr. Noggle, thought it was a good idea," Downing said. "Out of everything I've been asked to do as a World Team member, this is one of my favorites. I'm going to see people who are excited for me and will wave back at me because they want me to do well at Worlds. But these also are the same people who wave back at little kids throwing candy on the first day of Little League, and will be proud of you in your high school band uniform as well."

Downing (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) said going back home will give her an added boost heading into China.

"I'll be pretty pumped up to sit on the back of a convertible and wave to the people there," she said. "That's when you know you've really made it - when you get to sit in an actual car for the parade instead of being on a float or on foot.

"It will be great to see all of the faces that were there influencing me and encouraging me as I grew up. Plus, I'll get to see my coaches again, and a few of my high school friends. It will be exciting."
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