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Saturday, Sep 05, 2015
AP Eye Health

Runner competes despite her blindness


FRANKLIN, Ind. (AP) � The distinct look of accomplishment spread across Logan Anderson's face.

A member of the Franklin Community High School girls' cross-country team, the senior broke into a smile as she crossed the finish line of a junior varsity race in a time of 25 minutes, 33 seconds.

Anderson, who is blind, was on top of the world.

"She did wonderful. Just the look on her face. ... You couldn't ask for more," said Anderson's mother, Tonia Anderson. "You want your children to go out and achieve what they want, and this is what Logan wanted to do."

Born with oculocutaneous albinism, Logan Anderson had limited eyesight until the age of 2 and has been blind since. Now 17, she has no memories of sight. A small sliver of light out of the right corner of her right eye is her lone visual window to the world.

An estimated 1 in 20,000 people worldwide are born with oculocutaneous albinism, which affects one's eyes, skin pigmentation and sometimes hair.

Anderson is extremely light-skinned. Her hair (currently highlighted pink) and eyebrows are white. She uses a cane to navigate the school's hallways and classrooms and a guide runner during cross-country practices and competitions.

She has a 3.42 grade-point average and would like to study to become a therapist or biomedical engineer.

"I don't believe in blindness. I don't believe it's a disability. I think that's ridiculous and shouldn't stop anyone from doing anything they want to do. If that's sports or climbing a mountain or being a doctor, whatever that dream might be they should be able to attain it," Logan Anderson said.

"I wanted to challenge the social norms. I wanted to be like, 'Hey, I'm blind, but I'm going to go out and do what I want to do because I deserve what's best for me.'"

She doesn't expect pity, just the absolute best from herself.

On Saturday, she competed at the Grizzly Cubs' course during the Franklin Invitational, a guide runner to her left.

A rare situation

Anderson's first taste of competition as a Franklin high school athlete came one day after the Indiana High School Athletic Association's Risk and Competition Committee approved the request submitted by her parents.

According to IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox, the IHSAA receives about a half-dozen requests annually pertaining to student-athletes with some sort of disability seeking athletic eligibility. The IHSAA grants permission as long as the athlete does not benefit from any type of competitive advantage.

Cox has been commissioner since 2011 and was an assistant commissioner for 11 years before that. He said he doesn't recall a request comparable to that of the Andersons.

Tonia Anderson is grateful how swiftly the chain of events � the high school submitting a request for Logan to use a guide runner to the IHSAA, the IHSAA giving its stamp of approval and her daughter competing � transpired in less than a week.

Big family

Logan Anderson is the fourth of Franklin residents James and Tonia Anderson's six children and the only girl. She learned about crowded environments early, which makes sense now that she's jockeying for position on cross-country layouts.

"I'm used to being around a lot of people. A lot of pushy teenage boys at one time," she said with a laugh.

Anderson attended the Indiana School for the Blind in Indianapolis from age 3 through her sophomore year. While there she tried cheerleading, swimming, track and even wrestling.

Her favorite activity was goalball, a team sport designed for blind athletes. The game involves attempting to throw or roll a ball embedded with bells into the opponent's goal. Competitors use the sound of the bells to determine where and how fast the ball is moving.

As an honors student approaching her high school graduation, Anderson sought bigger academic challenges and enrolled at Franklin in time for the 2014-15 school year.

"I want to get my honors diploma, so I wanted more of a challenge that (Indiana School for the Blind) really couldn't offer me," Anderson said.

Not surprisingly, Anderson wanted to remain active at Franklin, which with 1,664 students is nearly 10 times the size of her previous school.

So she runs.

All about team

Anderson knew there would be adjustments when it came to meshing with her cross-country teammates, all of whom can see and none of whom competes with the help of a guide runner.

She feels her team's trip to Spring Mill State Park near the southern Indiana town of Mitchell in July played a big role in allowing her to bond with teammates.

"They really got to know me. Everything's been real cool. We get along, we hang out. We laugh and talk just like anyone else," Anderson said.

Fourth-year Grizzly Cubs coach Ray Lane likes the way his athletes have meshed.

"One of the things we try to preach is if you come out and have a good attitude you're always going to fit in," Lane said. "Logan always wants to make herself better, and I think her teammates respect that."

Anderson runs with a sighted guide runner, her left hand holding the person's right arm. She tells the individual leading her around the course when she feels like speeding up or slowing down.

In turn, the guide runner informs Anderson of upcoming changes in terrain or if they are about to change direction.

Last week's guide runner at the Plainfield Invitational, where Anderson placed 164th out of 166 runners, was Franklin assistant girls' cross-country coach Haley Anderson. This week's will be 2014 Franklin graduate Garrett Collier, a friend of the Anderson family.

"There were a couple obstacles in the (Plainfield) course like little hills and slight dips. I tripped on those a couple of times. I did end up falling, but it wasn't on a hill. It was over my own foot. Other than that it was a relatively flat course," Logan Anderson said.

"It was really exciting, for one, because I've never run a race before. It was exhilarating to be able to do it. But it was exhausting. I'm not going to lie."

Anderson admits to having her "Why me?" moments. Over time she mastered the craft of keeping them to herself.

"I admit I'll get upset because I can't do certain things when realistically I can do them. It's just I have to put in a little bit of extra work, and sometimes I don't really want to put in that extra work," she said.

"Other than that I try not to think about it. There are other people who have it worse."


Source: (Franklin) Daily Journal, http://bit.ly/1KWO1ra


Information from: Daily Journal, http://www.dailyjournal.net

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