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A blind pole vaulter qualified for the Arizona state track and field championships

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

One would think just surviving life would be difficult enough when one is blind. It is, yet that hasn’t stopped Arizona teen Aria Ottmueller from challenging herself to do things that most fully-sighted human beings would find remarkably difficult on their own; Ottmueller qualified for the Arizona track and field state championships in the pole vault.

Incredibly, Ottmueller has not just discovered a way to compete in the pole vault despite a near-complete lack of sight, she’s found a way to excel in the event. According to this terrific profile of the Phoenix (Az.) Valley Christian School junior form the Arizona Republic, Ottmueller has had to develop a precise routine while competing in the event because she can’t see a single thing while approaching her run up and the pole vault pit.

Ottmueller isn’t technically 100 percent blind, though she was born that way. Instead, she now technically has 20-400 vision, which essentially rules out her ability to see anything beyond very vague shapes. Even that goes away at night or when the weather is even partially overcast.

That kind of vision could prove extraordinarily challenging for someone to compete in any event, let alone the pole vault. Yet Ottmueller told the Republic that she began competing in distance events, then moved on to the pole vault because she found distance running too easy.

While that might seem chastening to most of us with normal vision, considering the fact that Ottmueller has also jumped horses and competed in gymnastics -- again, all while nearly completely blind -- perhaps pole vaulting wasn’t such a leap anyway.

“When I’m pole vaulting, I can’t see the pit. I can’t really see anything,” Ottmueller told the Republic. “I’ve always not liked being on the ground as much as I like being in the air. I was talking to one of my coaches, and he’s like, ‘She’s not pole vaulting,’ and I’m like, ‘Yes, I am,’ ‘’

Incredibly, Ottmueller has achieved just as much in the pole vault pit as she has in the classroom and in her past, leaving her parents and coaches positively amazed at her continued development.

“What a story,” Valley Christian assistant track and field coach Al Nelson told the Republic. “We have a little joke, that because she really can’t see where she’s landing, it’s almost easier for her. She has overcome so much in the classroom and on the field. She was determined that she was going to pole vault.

“She wasn’t going to use her handicap as an excuse. She’s as viable a part of our team as any athlete.”

A visible part of a flagship athletic program. What a fitting accolade for a superstar without vision.

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