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Blind girl runs with help from guide dog
October 19, 2011 7:55 AM   Subscribe

Inspiring story of the day: Legally blind high school girl runs on the cross country team with help of her guide dog. via
posted by I am the Walrus (45 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Awww... running with dogs... is there anything more awesome?

She should get into Canicross.
posted by ph00dz at 7:59 AM on October 19, 2011


Stoner?
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:00 AM on October 19, 2011


Great story. I've taken care of a number of guide dogs, they never cease to amaze.
Plus, Stoner.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 8:09 AM on October 19, 2011


Does "non-scoring competitor" mean she's not actually competing and that they're basically just letting her run behind everybody else (given she has a 20 second delay on starting)?
posted by pjdoland at 8:25 AM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Saw this on twitter earlier this morning. It is very inspiring. Sometimes when I'm running I'll close my eyes for a few moments just to see what it feels like and I feel like I'm going to run into a tree. Thankfully she has a furry friend to help keep her in the right direction, still it has to be somewhat scary not knowing what is in front of you as you run.
posted by Fizz at 8:27 AM on October 19, 2011


I think this story is inspiring, but I kind of hate "heartwarming" articles about disabilities, for reasons like this:
Sami Stoner has yet to cross the finish line in first place, but she has won over fans while trying.
Awww, right? Except she'll never cross the finish line in first place, because she has to start behind everyone else AND she's a non-scoring competitor AND if the finish line chute is too small... well it's not entirely clear what happens then.

So that sentence is just pointlessly manipulative.
posted by muddgirl at 8:30 AM on October 19, 2011 [13 favorites]


pjdoland: yes. Although I can see her lobbying to eliminate that restriction once she has a successful season under her belt. No reason for her not to contribute to the team score. And the 20 second delay should merely be eliminated from her final time once she finishes. (and there's no reason for her to not cross the actual finish line...the officials can merely spread the cones or stanchions farther apart to accommodate her dog.)
posted by Kokopuff at 8:31 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Stoner?

She runs cross country, I thought that went without saying.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:36 AM on October 19, 2011


Does "non-scoring competitor" mean she's not actually competing and that they're basically just letting her run behind everybody else (given she has a 20 second delay on starting)?

Mostly, yeah. In high school cross country, a team's score is equal to the sum of the finishing places of the top five runners. So, for example, if Team A's best five runners are in 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 7th, then that's a score of 1+3+4+6+7 or 21 (a lower score is better, in case that isn't obvious).

As a non-scoring competitor, her performance doesn't count towards the team's score. But, in case of a tie, the tie is broken by comparing the finishing place of the team's best non-scoring runner. So as I understand it she could theoretically break a tie in her team's favor.

Basically, the way high school cross country is structured means that she could only help her team's score if she were counted as a scoring runner. As far as I can tell the only reason to make her a non-scoring competitor is if the dog is regarded as some kind of advantage, probably because it acts sort of like a pacing runner, but that's both extremely unlikely and actually kind of insulting to both the regular athletes and Stoner.
posted by jedicus at 8:37 AM on October 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


muddgirl, I agree that sentence is bad, but the point is valid. Running isn't like team sports where the point is to win. With running, it's all about getting out there any doing it. There are millions of people out there running 5Ks, 10Ks, marathons, and ultras, and 99% will never win anything. But they go out to run anyway, to conquer the course, to get a new Personal Record (PR), or just to have fun. It's great this girl can do that too.
posted by I am the Walrus at 8:39 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Four legs good, two legs bad, six legs awesome.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:42 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


twoleftfeet: "Stoner?"

Worse than that: "When she started having eye problems, I thought that part of her life was over," her father Keith Stoner said.

That's right, he's Keith Stoner
posted by I am the Walrus at 8:43 AM on October 19, 2011


It's great this girl can do that too.

Oh I agree, and I wish the article had been written that way, while also acknowledging the social obstacles that are still barriers to acheiving her best.
posted by muddgirl at 8:51 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bet if she had a seeing eye jaguar they'd reconsider that whole "non-scoring competitor" thing.
posted by orme at 9:00 AM on October 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


Personally, I don't understand running. Whenever I see people running, I think: "what are they running from?" Could be debt, could be emotional honesty, could be federal investigators. I dunno. Could be giant scorpions, I guess. The important thing is that they will solve none of these problems by running. That's why I encourage runners to STOP running and TURN around and FACE their problems - unless those problems are giant scorpions, in which case I encourage them to KEEP running and DON'T turn around and for God's sake CARRY ME because I don't want to be eaten by giant fucking scorpions either. In summary, then, I applaud this young girl but I just hope the scorpions do not turn their anger on the rest of us. Please consider that point carefully in your ongoing deliberations on this topic. Thank you.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:01 AM on October 19, 2011 [29 favorites]


The 10th Regiment of Foot: "Four legs good, two legs bad, six legs awesome"

Six....foot?

Eponysterical.
posted by notsnot at 9:22 AM on October 19, 2011


how many giant scorpion derails are we going to have to endure today? Face it, they are here and they are NOT going away so it's best that you either just ignore them or shove a damn sock in your mouth so I don't have to listen to your deathly screams because you are too foolish to run from them.
posted by any major dude at 9:22 AM on October 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Running isn't like team sports where the point is to win.

In the overall sense, this is true; in this particular story, it is a team sport, and the point (for the team) is to win.

Regardless, it's all kinds of awesome that she can do this.
posted by rtha at 9:27 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Basically, the way high school cross country is structured means that she could only help her team's score if she were counted as a scoring runner.

Also keep in mind that cross-country is a dual-meet sport, in that there is recognition for both teams and individuals. She may be non-scoring for the team, but still competes as an individual for the best personal times.

This assumes, though, that her 20-second delay isn't counted against her when determining her individual time. That is unclear from the article, and wouldn't be fair otherwise.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:30 AM on October 19, 2011


Running is in our genes. Denying someone the right to run is akin to denying them the right to mate or eat. I can understand the other factors involved in high school sports, so I'm glad she was able to run.

This is also great example about how intertwined humans and dogs really are. Genetic problems with one species can be compensated by another. Last season of NOVA had an episode called "Dogs Decoded" that kind of blew my mind. A claim was made that humans would not have evolved to the level we did without the domestication of dogs, and it's one I fully believe.
posted by chemoboy at 9:39 AM on October 19, 2011


Four legs good, two legs bad, six legs awesome.

So... if I get my helper lobster out onto the course, I'll be Super Awesome?

We will compete under the name Arthropod Anthropoid.

We'll still get beaten by the blind girl who on a bad day can run faster than my best, but, hey, we'll be competing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:39 AM on October 19, 2011


This reminds me of a skydiving joke.
posted by 7segment at 9:40 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Genetic problems with one species can be compensated by another

This is a very interesting point about inter-species co-operation, and you know who else has an interesting "point" re: inter-species co-operation? A fucking giant scorpion-human symbiotic entity that can RUN AFTER YOU with its pointy stinger as fast as you can run away - that's who.

Please also add that agenda item to your ongoing deliberations.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 10:02 AM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


The point about being a non-scoring competitor would be a bigger deal if her times were faster. I went to a pretty small highschool, and our girls CC team top 5 would always be < 25 minutes for a 5k.
posted by garlic at 10:02 AM on October 19, 2011


Could we not make this into another cross-country runner vs. giant scorpion thread?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:06 AM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


SILENCED ALL MY LIFE. BY GIANT SCORPIONS.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 10:11 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait... it's possible to be illegally blind? Man, that's got to be a hard road.
posted by Decani at 10:42 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


As far as I can tell the only reason to make her a non-scoring competitor is if the dog is regarded as some kind of advantage, probably because it acts sort of like a pacing runner

Or a potential disadvantage for other runners, if they're blocked by (or scared of) the dog. Some cross-country courses have very narrow sections where passing is almost impossible.
posted by zippy at 10:52 AM on October 19, 2011


Running isn't like team sports where the point is to win.

I'd say the displays of courage, determination and focus on inclusiveness on the parts of the parents, coaches and Sami are a huge win for the team.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 10:55 AM on October 19, 2011


I would advise her to wear ankle braces. I know they're not the best for long-distance running, but they could spare her a nasty turned ankle one day.
posted by resurrexit at 10:56 AM on October 19, 2011


Also, hell yeah.
posted by resurrexit at 10:56 AM on October 19, 2011


I think they should let her score. I was running a 5k in Manhattan Beach a few years back and was passed and beaten by a woman pushing a stroller. That was a woman who was pregnant pushing a stroller. I woman I later learned when I caught up to her at the finish line that was 8 months pregnant pushing a stroller. Oh, I forgot, it was a double stroller. She had twins.

I have been passed by an eight months pregnant woman pushing a double stroller. It would be my honor to get beaten by Sami Stoner!

(And having run cross-country in high school and finishing next to last once -- sick as a dog -- I see no reason she couldn't be counted toward the score.)
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:03 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow. This reminds me of the Mythbusters where they try to travel in a straight line while blindfolded and realize just how impossible it is. Even with a dog, what she is doing takes incredible courage. Good for her.
posted by 4ster at 11:10 AM on October 19, 2011


Or a potential disadvantage for other runners, if they're blocked by (or scared of) the dog. Some cross-country courses have very narrow sections where passing is almost impossible.

That's one of the reasons why she starts 20 seconds behind. If that's a problem, bump it up to a minute or more. It's easy to subtract the time on the back end, and unless she's an inhumanly good runner then even a marathon shouldn't require a lag of more than a half hour or so, which wouldn't unduly lengthen the race. It's not necessary that she be behind everyone, just that she be in a sparse enough section of the course that passing is not an issue. It's a very reasonable accommodation.
posted by jedicus at 11:26 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wasn't on the cross country team: in what other situations would a member of the team be a non-scoring runner?
posted by muddgirl at 11:36 AM on October 19, 2011


I wasn't on the cross country team: in what other situations would a member of the team be a non-scoring runner?

I did a little cross country in my school days. I can tell you that I did a lot of running, but not a lot of scoring, if you know what I mean. I guess I'm a real dog.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:49 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


In a competetive race, each XC team enters 7 runners. The first five across the finish line score, and. 6th and 7th would be tie breakers (and also guard against one of the top five falling apart and dropping out, which happens).

The remarkable thing to me is that, because Ms. Stoner has the harness is one hand and the leash in the other, she is running without using her arms. That is really, really hard. I bet she used to be faster before she lost so much vision.

Also as others have pointed out, XC involves running very fast over treacherous ground up and down steep hills. It can be very scary as a person who can see. I think she's pretty amazing.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:53 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would make a joke about this but the reality is that it is true motivation and conviction to do this. Congratulations to here for doing this. I don't know if I would do the same if I were in her shoes.
posted by SEOdegreeo at 12:18 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


A year later with Chloe, that time dropped to 30:24 while giving away 20 seconds at the start.

I think this indicates the 20 seconds is not allotted for at the end.

And, to be clear, as the article points out, she is legally blind, not completely blind, so she does have some peripheral vision to help with some of the obstacles. (not diminishing in any way)
posted by edgeways at 12:26 PM on October 19, 2011


My contribution to my HS cross-country team was picking their most flattering action shots for the yearbook. Just having to review photos of them in action exhausted me - they work their asses off, which I know as an expert judge on how people look relatively exerted in their action shots. What this girl is doing is great. Precedents are a great thing.
posted by bleep at 1:02 PM on October 19, 2011


Doing 10-min. miles on terrain while holding something and OH YEAH ALSO BEING FUCKING BLIND is really terrific! Way to go Ms. Stoner!
posted by Mister_A at 1:06 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


How inspiring, the human will is truly a magnificent thing to behold. There is an antiquated, but is currently being updated, saying in Navajo/Apache society: Your legs are your only friends. Running is a big deal for those in my tribe who choose to follow a contemporary traditional lifestyle, so much so that I can still feel the ice-cold water my great-grandmother would splash on my face to wake me up before dawn so that I may run with her towards the rising sun.
posted by nataaniinez at 1:30 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


She should totally move to rural north Florida where most cross country is run on asphalt or graded limerock country roads, with a cop car pacing and another one chasing. Then I bet we'd see some better times. Even the state championship is run a fairly groomed and open course.
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:26 PM on October 19, 2011


This is great.

I had an awesome blind student a few years ago at my middle school who decided that he would join the cross-country skiing team. The coaches had sighted skiers take turns guiding him at practices, (he'd stay in the tracks even on skate ski days)- not sure what they did for races. Anyway, I tried it for a few seconds that winter. Holy shit, was it the scariest thing ever. Good for him, and good for her.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:19 PM on October 19, 2011


Decani: Wait... it's possible to be illegally blind? Man, that's got to be a hard road.


Yep. Here in Italy they've just arrested yet another "totally blind" person for cashing in over $150,000 in state subsidies over a 19-year period, when the Finance Guard filmed him shopping, repairing a bicycle, driving a truck, and so on. There's one of these every month or so.
posted by aqsakal at 3:00 AM on October 20, 2011


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