Running with Darby: A local blind teen and her coach inspire others

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GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KAKE) -

Last summer, Darby Reimer sought out a new challenge. She wanted to be on the cross country team at Kenneth Henderson Middle School. 

"I was not at all sure what it was," said the 13-year-old. "I just thought it was all long distance."

Reimer is fully blind, so her first obstacle was to find someone to run with in practices and meets. 

"During summer practices they were like you can't come yet because we haven't found a coach for you," said Reimer. "They finally found a coach and I'm like yay!"

Emily Watkins stepped up to help. She knew Reimer from her time as a special education teacher and she's married to the head cross country coach.

"When I found out that she wanted to do it, I was like of course," said Watkins. "I want all of my students, I want all of my kids...I mean I'm a mom too. I want them to be able to participate in anything that they want."

Side by side…holding onto a looped rope the two starting training. 

"Whenever they started doing really hard workouts, I'm like I'm never doing this again," said Reimer. 

"This was brand new to her," said Watkins. "I mean she took on something that she never had really tried."

"I told my grandma after the practice, I thought I was going to die," said a smiling Reimer. 

There was an adjustment for Watkins as well. She not only has to be Reimer's eyes but she also has to quickly communicate what she's seeing.

"We've kind of made our own language. I think I prompt her in different ways than they told us," said Watkins. "I think we've gotten together a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. 

"She always tells me to turn left, turn right," said Reimer. "She's really fun." 

Reimer isn't happy with just crossing the finish line. She wants to improve her time each week and catch other runners.  

"I'm like yay I passed someone," said Reimer. "Maybe I can make it and pass another person."

"I crossed the finish line in tears in our first meet," said Watkins. "The whole crowd was there cheering for her. I was not expecting that at all."

Every time Reimer and Watkins grab that rope and go forward together…it's a touching reminder that you don't have to finish in first place to be an inspiration.

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