The 400-meter dash — a quarter-mile sprint requiring equal parts aerobic and anaerobic strength — is hard enough as it is, let alone when you can't see the finish line. And, yet, somehow Ladue (Mo.) Horton Watkins High junior Annie Donnell, who is blind, makes it seem so easy.
Donnell has been a member of the Rams' track squad since her freshman season and has competed in the 400 in each of their previous two junior varsity meets. She runs tethered to teammate Allison Moehrle, and the inseparable pair are the subject of recent profiles by KSDK-TV and MileSplit.
"I think that anyone who is blind or vision impaired or really anyone can do anything they want to do, so this is what I'm going to do," the 16-year-old Donnell, who has been blind since birth, told KSDK-TV.
Added Moehrle: "I've always liked how smart she is. It's always amazing to me. She can tell when people are behind us. When I can't tell when people are behind us, she pull me aside and say, 'People are behind us. Get out of the way.' And she's like my guide when I'm not guiding her."
While Donnell crossed the line last in both her 400-meter races this season and both 100-meter dash attempts as a sophomore, according to statistics available on MileSplit, it's not about where she finishes.
It's that she finished, and the rest of her Rams teammates can draw inspiration from her effort.
“The kids see her, and she’s a part of the team,” Ladue coach Keith Harder told MileSplit. “It’s not like, ‘Oh we have to get out of her way.’ She’s an integral part of a typical day at practice. We make amends and make sure we see her, but she’s as much a part of this thing as the other kids. That’s what I like.”
Donnell excels off the track, too. She owns a 4.0 GPA and sings in the St. Louis Children's Choir, according to KSDK-TV. In essence, the Ladue junior is winning the ultimate race.