Running Blind

By Staff Writer Jake Smith

Freshman Emmit Douglas is all about hard work and having fun. When Douglas was looking for a sport, he chose cross country. Cross country is a sport that involves running up massive hills, along with tight corners, long straights, and it is almost entirely on trails. Most of the races tend to be about two miles. Douglas experiences all the elements of cross country, but with one handicap, he is blind.

One thing that people often wonder is how does Douglas run. “I usually go with a guide and I grab their arm. They lead me,” said Douglas.

Multiple people show their support in helping Douglas have a prosperous season. Student athletes and volunteer coach, Felicia Van Lierop help when possible. Leah Rasmussen was Douglas’ guide in the beginning before she hurt her foot. Afterwards, current guide and AP English teacher Jaime Sullivan stepped up.

Douglas’ current guide Sullivan, has ran in the Capitol invite and the Shelton home with Douglas so far. Sullivan even ran with Douglas when he set a personal record.

Sullivan describes running with Douglas like driving a car. “Emmit always has to supply the gas. So he sets the speed,” said Sullivan. Sullivan has to use her intuition when running with him.“I have to feel how his strides are, if [Douglas is] just jumping ahead and wanting to go to a faster pace.”

At practice, Sullivan and Douglas have the chance to learn about each other. “Running gives you a lot of time to talk, especially when you’re running with a partner,” said Sullivan.

When people outside of cross country see Douglas running, they see him facing a wall of adversity. But Sullivan says he doesn’t see the adversity in it. “ I don’t think Emmit sees it as adversity. This is the only body that he’s known. He was born without vision. So to him we might be impressed by how he overcomes obstacles. But to him he doesn’t see this as impressive”.

Cross country coach Kevin Gary sees the results that Douglas is putting out. “[Douglas] is beating people and passing people,” said Gary.

When asked about how Gary sees Douglas deal with adversity, Gary said “He’s working as hard as anyone else on the team. He’s giving a hundred percent and that transitions into a better performance at the end of the season”.

Gary coaches Douglas the same way he coaches everyone, “So when we do hard workout days, we break them out into varsity and Junior Varsity groups, and so he is still apart of the Junior Varsity group and working hard with that group and doing the workout. I assign the workout with no modifications to it”, says Gary.

Onaje Duncan-Joyner, one of the captains for the team describes Douglas as “ A really cool guy”.

When asked how he sees the team feel when they see Douglas constantly trying, he says “It’s had a positive impact on the entire team”.

Douglas goal is to get varsity by the end of sophomore year, Gary says ”Anything can happen, and with Emmit he’s a ninth grader and hasn’t really gone through that growth spurt yet. So if he works hard year round, just like any other athlete. It’s totally a possibility”.   


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