ELROY, WI - 13 year old Ethan Rolon is in his first year with the Brookwood Middle School track team. Not much of a runner before this spring, Rolon is starting to enjoy the sport.
"It's fun because you can met new people in running in general. I think it's fun because I like working out," Rolon said.
Rolon runs the one mile. But final times and place is not his biggest motivation.
"I've had people ask me things like how are you suppose to run you can't see. I just prove people wrong with the comments they make," Rolon said.
Rolon is legally blind. He was born with degenerative glaucoma and has undergone four eye surgeries by the time he was 4 years old. He can see two inches from his face in his left eye. And only direct light in his right.
"Over the years I have been losing my vision. When I was 7 it started getting worse. I was like why can't I do this, why can't i do that anymore. it was more irrating and upsetting than it was sad for me," Rolon said.
Despite having poor vision. Rolon isn't letting his disability slow him down.
"I just said you know what, I know blind people who have broken records in track so why can't I?" Rolon said.
But to run, Rolon needed some help. Brookwood track coach and social studies teacher Jeanine Brieske decided to be Rolon's running guide. During runs, Brieske and Rolon use a two-foot teather to stay connected. One side loops around Rolon's fingers. The other side is a knot that goes around Brieske's fingers.
"He trusts me and that's crazy. On the track it's a lot easier because it's flat and I'm not going to take him into another person," Brieske said.
"Usually she'll say stuff like Ethan there's hurdles to your left, stay to your right," Rolon said.
In the tandem, Brieske is the eyes, but Rolon sets the pace.
"He's doing it all on his own. I'm just there for the ride. It's fun to workout with him and see him improve," Brieske said.
"I worked hard to get to this point and I finally did it. Even if you don't PR, I at least tired I worked out, I tried," Rolon said.
With Brieske around beside him, Rolon's best race came on May 7th at Royall High School. Rolon ran the mile in 7:40, a 24 second personal record and broke the 8:00 minute mark for the first time.
"It's pretty amazing, it's inspiring really..he just is always a go getter," Brieske said.
"If you try, you can accomplish everything. There are some things blind people can't do because of their disability. But there are more things that they can do," Rolon said.
According to Rolon's family, his eyesight will gradually get worse until he is fully blind. But Rolon plans to run track again next season.
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