Shes a pole vaulter, and shes blind Charlotte Brown, right, who is legally blind, sits with her guide dog, Vadar, as she waits to receive her award after competing in the Conference 4A Girls Pole Vault at the UIL Texas State Track and Field Championships (AP photos)
Shes a pole vaulter, and shes blind

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For three years, Charlotte Brown has been chasing a medal by trying to jump over a bar she couldn't see.

The senior pole vaulter finally cleared that bar, earning a third-place finish at the Texas state high school championships. And proudly joining her on the podium as the bronze medal was draped around her neck her service dog Vador.

Brown is blind, yet that's not stopped her quest to become one of the best in an event that would seem next to impossible.

"I finally did it," Brown said. "If I could send a message to anybody, it's not about pole vaulting and it's not about track. It's about finding something that makes you happy despite whatever obstacles are in your way."

Brown had qualified for the state meet each year since 2013 with Emory Rains High School. She finished eighth as a sophomore and improved to fourth as a junior.

At her hotel room before the finals, Stori Brown tried to counsel her daughter that it was important to remember that she was one of the few to make it this far, whether she won a medal or not.

"No," Charlotte replied. "I need to be on that podium."

Brown was born with normal vision. She developed cataracts when she was 16 weeks old. That led to the first of several operations, including insertion of artificial lenses. Her vision stabilized until she was about 11 when it started to worsen.

By 2013, she still had pinhole vision. But she couldn't see color or distinguish shape from shadow. Brown is now blind. While not faced with total darkness, her mother described what remains as a "jigsaw puzzle" of mixed up shades of light and dark.

Despite her disability, Brown takes pride in her fierce spirit of independence. It comes from growing up in a family with two older brothers who pushed her to help herself in the rural town of Emory. That is about 75 miles east of Dallas.

Run down a track and hurtle herself more than 11 feet into the air? No problem.

Brown first took up pole vaulting in seventh grade. Why? She wanted something a little "dangerous and exciting." She competes with a combination of fearless abandon and meticulous attention to detail. She counts the seven steps of her left foot on her approach. She listens for the sound of a faint beeper placed on the mat that tells her when to plant the pole and push up.

At the state meet, Vador walked her to the warm-up area. The dog stretched out behind the jumpers as they went through each attempt.

Brown missed her first attempts at 10-0 feet and 10-6 but cleared both on her second try. She cleared 11-0 on her first attempt, then soared over 11-6. She secured a medal when two other vaulters bowed out at that height, leaving Brown among the last three in the field.

She made three attempts at 11-9 but missed each one. She briefly slumped her shoulders and shook her head after her final attempt. Then she got to her feet to acknowledge the standing ovation from several hundred fans she could hear but not see.

"She came to win," said her father, Ian Brown. "As parents, we are thrilled she got on the podium."

Brown medaled in a talented field. Sydney King, who won gold at a height of 12-3, has signed with Oklahoma to pole vault in college.

"I don't how many people could do that," King said. "Her story, she's what keeps me going when things aren't going right for me."

Brown is headed to Purdue on an academic scholarship. She plans to walk on in track.

"It took me three years to get on the podium and I finally did it," Brown said. "This story ... really wasn't about me. It was about everybody that struggles with something."

Critical thinking challenge: Why does Charlotte only count the steps of her left foot?

Assigned 101 times

  • 15Q4rocketsvb11
    5/21/2015 - 01:42 p.m.

    I think it's amazing that she got third place. I love how she never gave up on pole jumping. I think It's awesome how she made it to state every year. I think many people will be inspired by her and her determination.

  • 15Q4rocketsvb11
    5/21/2015 - 01:42 p.m.

    I think it's amazing that she got third place. I love how she never gave up on pole jumping. I think It's awesome how she made it to state every year. I think many people will be inspired by her and her determination.

  • 15Q4FranK12
    5/21/2015 - 01:43 p.m.

    I think this is very amazing because it's cool to think a blind person did pol vault and got third! That makes me feel like I can do amazing stuff if I try my best. I'm not even blind and I can't do pol vault, it's really hard but really fun to me!

  • JessicaROrange
    5/21/2015 - 01:47 p.m.

    I think its cool how she can do that een though she is blind and can not see anything when she does her sport. i would not do that because i would be scared if i was blind but i guess for her case she is a fighter she knows what shes doing and thats great I also like how she had her dog with her when she got third

  • dallass-Koc
    5/21/2015 - 02:41 p.m.

    This story is a very inspiring story. So many people make up little excuses just to make it big. She looked past all of it just to achieve the goal she wanted.

  • SeanS-Kut
    5/21/2015 - 02:58 p.m.

    Charlotte Brown is so inspirational! It's so cool to think that a blind person did pole vault and got third! It must have been hard for her to practice the pole vault for 3 years and never give up until she got a medal.

  • ShawnBBlue
    5/21/2015 - 04:43 p.m.

    Never give up. There is no wall you can't break, there is no obstacle you can't pass. Always believe and do your best and you will succeed in anything you believe in. Don't let others change you, ever.

  • BrettHPink
    5/21/2015 - 04:43 p.m.

    I do track and find some events very challenging. I could not imagine doing those events blind or with a disability. One of my favorite events is shot put. I do the spin and without any disability's is very challenging. This is very inspirational.

  • ChadLPurple
    5/21/2015 - 04:45 p.m.

    This is a very cool article. I had no clue a blind person could pole vault. Its amazing what you can do when you set your mind to it.

  • HaleyMBlue
    5/21/2015 - 04:47 p.m.

    I think it is incredible that she could jump that height without being able to see the pole it takes a person with 20 20 eye sight skills to even do that.

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