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Blind prep pole vaulter finished fourth at Texas state meet

Blind high school vaulter in Texas nearly medals
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Emory Rains High School's Charlotte Brown, left, competes in the Girls 3A pole vault at the UIL State Track & Field meet, Friday, May 9, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Brown, a pole vaulter who happens to be legally blind, starts on the clap from her coach and counts her steps on her approach. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Launching one's self 11-plus feet into the air on a pole is a scary proposition for most mortals, but fear apparently doesn't faze Charlotte Brown, since the Emory (Texas) Rains High junior competes blind.

According to the Associated Press, Brown developed cataracts at 16 weeks old, received a series of operations that helped her maintain her vision until age 11 and ultimately lost her sign completely within the past year. Yet, none of that has prevented her from become one of Texas' premier prep pole vaulters.

The 16-year-old finished fourth at the Texas Class 3A state meet — clearing 11 feet, 3 inches to come within 2 feet of beating Wimberley senior Kally Long's winning jump (13-2) — and she wasn't satisfied.

"The main goal is to win," Brown told the Associated Press. "Today wasn't my best day jumping. ... I moved up four places. Hopefully, I can move up four places next year and win it."

Using her seeing-eye dog Vador to reach the starting line, Brown reportedly counts the number of times her left foot hits the track on an 81-foot path to the vault and sets her pole the moment she hears a high-pitched sound from a beeper. She achieved a personal-best 11-6 while finishing second at her regional meet and has cleared 12-6 in practice, according to ESPNW. Obviously, she hopes to win the state title next season.

"I guess people think it's frustrating to have to change all the time, but that's what life is, it's changing all the time," Brown told the AP. "When I lost the rest of my vision, I just thought of it as another chance to overcome something. ... The bright side is, I'm already totally blind. I don't have to figure out another way to vault. I can't get any blinder. What I figure out now will work the rest of my vaulting career."

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