Charlotte Brown Wins Podium Finish in Pole Vaulting

Authors: Scott Bowman, Interim Assistant Commissioner, DARS Division for Blind Services

Keywords: family wisdom, sports, adaptations, confidence builders, self determination

Abstract: The author shares his observations and the insights of a high school student with vision impairment competing in the 2015 UIL Track and Field State Championship.

In the process of compiling some information on Division for Blind Services (DBS) accomplishments and upcoming events, I learned from our Tyler field director, Donna Williams, that the University Interscholastic League (UIL) 2015 Track and Field State Championships were scheduled the weekend of May 14-16, 2015.  I have to admit that track and field events are not something that I ordinarily pay attention to, except that she mentioned Charlotte Brown would be competing.  Charlotte, as some of you may recall, is a long-time DBS transition consumer from east Texas and a pole vaulter and track star.  I have been in this business for a long time, but I have to admit that the list of successful blind pole vaulters that I have known is a very short list.  The girl’s 4A conference pole vaulting championships was going to be in Austin on May 16, so I got in touch with her transition counselor, Dan Chamness, from our Tyler office and got the details.  I quickly cleared my Saturday morning schedule of other pressing engagements (such as mowing the lawn) and drove down to the University of Texas athletic fields. This event was in the Mike Meyers Track Complex.  Dan was in Austin and met me at the field, oriented me to the event and introduced me to Charlotte’s family and friends.  Her parents, Ian and Stori Brown, and several others were sporting custom printed t-shirts, promoting Charlotte’s final UIL competition.  I felt a little underdressed with my DARS DBS red polo shirt, but that was the best I could do on short notice.

The competition itself was intense and exciting to witness from the bleachers just a few feet away from the track area.  The long, flexible poles that the young women manipulated seemed very unwieldy, but did the trick in helping with the 10 and 11 foot vaulting efforts.  Charlotte used to lay out a contrasting strip of dark-colored turf along the edge of the runway to offer some contrast for her run up to the point where she has to plant her pole.  These days, the only accommodation was an audible beeper that was strategically placed where the pole is planted for the jump.  Sheer determination and endless hours of practice and discipline seemed to pay off for Charlotte.  Her best vault at the 11’6” height was good enough to secure a third place podium finish for Charlotte (and her dog guide, Vador, who took over the actual podium at the critical time).  After the medal presentations, the winner and the runner up seemed to fade into the crowds, as ESPN and several local news media personnel literally surrounded Charlotte.  As always, Charlotte was very gracious and spoke about overcoming obstacles (not in the literal sense, but in terms of challenges that life can present).  I managed to take a few more snapshots of Charlotte with one of her brothers and another with Dan Chamness before we left the complex.  I wished her well with her move to Purdue in June, where she will join her older brother in the track and field program there.  My lawn work is still waiting, but what a wonderful opportunity it was to see one of the success stories that DARS has assisted over the years.

Good luck, Charlotte!


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