Blind vaulter sight to see

May 17, 2014

As with any pole vaulter, there is a certain amount of blind faith involved when Charlotte Brown competes.

Except with Brown, she really is blind.

And she’s one of the best pole vaulters in Texas.

She took fourth at last weekend’s Class 3A State Track and Field Meet in Austin.

Stevie Wonder has nothing on Brown. While I can listen to “Sir Duke” or “Living For The City” all day, I can also watch Brown perform just as long.

Also, with all due respect to Lil’ Stevie, there’s no danger involved if he ever hits the wrong key on a piano. There is a lot of danger involved in Brown’s chosen field.

It takes tremendous courage and a certain amount of crazy for a person with perfect vision to pole vault. You’re upside down on a skinny pole a dozen feet or so in the air.

And yes, those poles do occasionally break. Also, plant the pole wrong and you can miss the mat coming down, landing smack on a hard surface.

Granbury’s Madison Northcutt, one of the best vaulters ever for this area, had a misjudgment and hit one of the bar-holding standards in 2012. She wound up banging her head on metal – not the kind where Deep Purple is playing loudly.

This is not an event for the faint of heart.

But it is one of the most beautiful events to watch. And watching Brown vault is simply mesmerizing.

To see what Brown does is a reminder of just how fine-tuned the ENTIRE body and mind of a great athlete truly is. LeBron James isn’t the best basketball player on earth simply because he can see the basket.

WORKING TOGETHER

The PA announcer asks the entire stadium to be quiet when it is Brown’s turn to vault. To the last person they comply.

Her coach then stands behind the mat. Whistling to guide her into the middle of the runway.

She takes off running, counting the steps in her mind. Then, at the command of her coach, she plants and goes over the bar, landing gracefully on the mat to the roaring applause of all who witnessed.

Seeing a blind pole vaulter wasn’t on my bucket list, but it sure would be if I’d thought of it when I made the list.

“She’s the epitome of a pole vaulter,” said Tolar vaulting coach Scotty Miller.

Miller said going down the runway doesn’t really require vision as long as everyone stays out of the way.

“All vaulters count when running down the runway. They have different ways. It’s a rhythm,” he said.

Miller, it turns out, has a connection to the Brown family. Her father was a walk-on punter when Miller was at the University of Texas, making his own bit of history in the pole vault.

Miller once held the school record of 18 feet, 4.5 inches, was named All-American twice, and finished fifth in the nation one year.

Still, in all his years of vaulting and coaching, he admits he’s never seen anyone like Brown. But he understands how she is able to do what she does so well.

“Vaulters just do what they do, whether they can see or not,” he said. “It’s like tying their shoes.

“But she is certainly impressive.”

MORE THAN A VAULTER

Not only does Brown vault, she also runs the anchor leg of the 1600-meter relay. Rumor has it she asked her parents to let her run the hurdles.

But pole vaulting is her passion, as is the case with most vaulters. She’s cleared 12-6 in practice, and her best vault in competition is 11-6.

I’ll stand back and watch Brown do what many with vision cannot.

And for some reason, Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely?” comes to mind.

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Category: Sports