Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Blind high school cross country runner does it with help of guide dog

Sami and Chloe

Running cross country in high school is difficult enough.  Young people training to race 3 miles in all types of weather conditions, including the infamous Hawaii Prep hill.

Those of you high school runners that think you have it tough should read about a young teenager from Ohio named Sami Stoner.

Stoner is running proof that adversity doesn’t have to keep you from the finish line.

A legally blind 16 year old runner, Sami is traversing cross-country courses this season with her new guide dog, Chloe, and is believed to be the first high school athlete in her home state of Ohio to compete with an animal.

“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, a junior at Lexington High School who’s on the junior varsity cross country team. “I love having Chloe. She’s helped me so much.”

Now in her fourth year running cross country, Sami won a waiver from the state high school athletic association that allows her to compete with a dog. The golden retriever puppy, who guides Sami through the crowded hallways at school, also takes her safely through the running trails of Ohio.

 “She watches out for roots and she tries to pick the clearest path for me,” Sami says cheerfully. “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.”

At the starting line, Sami and Chloe stay back 20 to 30 seconds so Chloe doesn’t get spiked by another runner, but they’re usually passing other competitors by the first mile on the 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) course. Sami is ineligible to score, and she must avoid finish-line chutes if they’re deemed too narrow, said Dale Gabor, the director of cross country and track and field for the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

“She gives a lot of hope to other kids,” said Gabor, who approved Sami’s waiver and believes she’s the first scholastic athlete in Ohio to compete with an animal.

Running with just some peripheral vision is scary, Sami says. But Chloe is highly focused, which has helped Sami feel secure enough to improve her personal record to 29:53.

“There is still a little element of being terrified you’re going to fall flat on your face,” Sami says. “She’s given me a lot more confidence in my running.”

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November 15, 2011 - Posted by | High School Runners | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I am very involved with a number of blind people here in South Africa and do a lot of fund raising for Guide Dogs. We were fortunate to home a retired Guide Dog who was with us for 4 years and have now homed a beautiful blond Labby who unfortunately has been rejected as a Guide Dog owing to ill health. I know the difference a Guide Dog can make to a persons life and so admire what you are achieving with Chloe, run on.

    Comment by sheena hurworth | December 6, 2011 | Reply


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