DES MOINES — Noah Malone began losing his vision in eighth grade due to an eye condition called Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy.
Now, as a junior in high school, he has 20/600 vision in his right eye and 20/400 vision in his left eye. He can only make out facial features if a person is within 2 feet of him.
“It was hard at first adjusting to it,” Malone said. “Adjusting was the hardest part. I didn’t know if I could still run track. I ran track, started losing my vision and then I didn’t know if I could still run track. It was hard at first, for sure.”
Malone ran in the Paralympic 100-meter and 200-meter sprints Friday and Saturday at the Drake Relays. The high schooler won both handily. He won the 100 with a time of 10.65 and the 200 in 21.70.
“Being at the Drake Relays is an amazing experience. It’s the top-tier meet I’ve ever been to,” Malone said. “That’s an accomplishment in and of itself. I love the atmosphere and the energy here. I’m really happy being here.”
While the weekend went well for Malone, it hasn’t always been easy. He’s fractured his ankle twice stepping on starting blocks or hurdles that were left out on the track that he couldn’t see. The most recent time he stepped on starting blocks was during the end of the 2016 indoor season in Indiana, where he runs high school track.
“It was really frustrating because it felt like I didn’t have anybody looking out for me or moving the blocks out of the way,” Malone said. “If I can’t see them, I’m going to need help. I didn’t have much help back then.”
The recovery took two months for Malone.
While running can be hard while legally blind, the most difficult adjustment for Malone was adjusting to school. He can’t read or write on paper anymore. He needs an iPad to enlarge text, so he can read it.
“I have to learn in a totally new way,” Malone said. “It’s hard keeping up with the work at times because I read at a slower rate.”
Malone eventually got the help he needed.
He goes to a school for the blind for half days and one of the teachers there put him in contact with a representative from the Paralympics to get him introduced to the Paralympic Games.
“Since I love track so much, I use that as motivation,” Malone said. “There have been hard moments, obviously, but then track just makes it better because I love the sport so much.”
Malone is an outstandingly positive individual.
“I have a little sister who looks up to me,” Malone said. “And I know other people also look up to me. Staying positive is the No. 1 key for me.”
Malone hopes to compete in the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
In the elite athlete field, world record holder Keni Harrison won her fourth Drake Relays 100-meter hurdles with a time of 12.65. She joined Lolo Jones as Drake Relays 100 hurdles four-peat winners.
In the men’s shot put, Ryan Crouser defended his Drake Relays title with a winning throw of 69 feet, 3 1/4 inches.
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