High School Runner is an Inspiration to Teen and Adult Athletes

For one teen, being blind does not keep her down. Sami Stoner continues running, although she is unable to see and needs the help of a guide dog. She will be the first high school athlete in her home state of Ohio to compete with an animal as she participates in cross-country courses this season.

The 16-year-old legally blind runner is an inspiration to me for many reasons. At her age, I also ran track and cross-country. I cannot imagine the different challenges she must face with running, especially cross-country, when she is blind. She’s a member of the junior varsity cross country team at Lexington High School and this is her fourth year of running. This will be the first year she gets to run with her new guide dog, Chloe.
“I don’t run for time or place or anything, I just run because I love it, and I’m glad I can share my love of running with Chloe now,” says Sami. “I love having Chloe. She’s helped me so much.”

The news comes after Sami won a waiver from the state high school athletic association that allows her to compete with a guide dog. Chloe, the golden retriever puppy who also guides her around the hallways at school, will now traverse the Ohio countryside and running trails with her.

A cross-country course can be dangerous, even to runners who can see. There are many obstacles that nature puts in the path and it’s very different from running on a track. Sami explains how Chloe will keep her safe on her runs.

“She watches out for roots and she tries to pick the clearest path for me,” Sami says. “The ways she moves, I can feel it in her harness, so she has little ways to signal which way to go and what to do.”

Sami and Chloe must stay back 20 to 30 seconds at the start and she has the avoid finish-line chutes if they are too narrow but otherwise, they compete just like everyone else in the 3.1 mile course. While Sami is ineligible to score, she is already a winner in more ways than one. Sami understand the freeing experience that comes from running. she’s not going to let the loss of her sight take away her love for running.

She serves as a huge inspiration to other runners of all ages and to children and teens with handicaps or disabilities that you can do anything you set your mind to. She brings hope to other kids and she shows everyone that if she can do it, you can do.

I’m expecting my fifth child in December and due to health concerns, I have had to stop running in this pregnancy. I have been feeling apprehensive about having to begin my training over again and frustrated that I couldn’t run like I wanted to. Reading Sami’s story reminds me that I have so much to be thankful for and that I can be back out there running again soon.

Sami says, “I just hope people learn that just because you have a disability or some kind of disadvantage that it’s not the end of the world. You can still do stuff, you just have to find a way of doing it.”