(EMORY, Texas) — At just 15 years old, Charlotte Brown has learned to fly — with a pink pole vault.
She’s not just the best pole vaulter Emory Rains High School, in Emory, Texas, has ever had, Charlotte is one of the best in the nation. She’s cleared 11 feet, 6 inches. And at the Texas state championships last week, the sophomore took eighth place — to a standing ovation.
What’s most amazing, however, is that Charlotte is legally blind. She said her vision was like looking down the inside of little black straws.
“I can’t really make up a blur even,” she told ABC News. “It just blends in for me.”
She frightened her parents, Ian and Stori Brown, when she told them that she’d like to try to jump.
“I said, ‘I have some concerns,’” Ian said.
“We never told her no,” Stori said. “We never told her she couldn’t do something, that we weren’t going to sign her up for an activity or a sport.”
At 16 weeks old, Charlotte started losing her sight. Doctors didn’t know why. She endured several surgeries. Doctors removed cataracts and tried artificial lenses. Nothing seemed to help.
Charlotte now reads and writes in Braille, uses large magnifying glasses and projectors, and has learned to read handwritten letters by feeling the ink.
When it comes to pole vaulting, Charlotte has a system. Her coach lays artificial turf next to her lane — she can see the difference between light and dark — and that helps her run the lane. She counts her steps and then goes for the jump.
She said she’s losing what little sight she has but she’s not letting it hinder her dreams.
“I think a disability is something that stops you or limits you from being able to do the things that you want to do,” Charlotte said. “This story isn’t about me. It’s about all people that struggle with something. I think everyone struggles with something in life. This was my something.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio