Track: In a blur – Lawson overcomes limited vision to soar on track

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, April 19, 2017
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Colton Lawson

Boyd’s Colton Lawson. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

On the track, the 800 is a test of speed, endurance and ultimately, sheer will. Two grueling laps come down to a final push for the finish line.

“For the last lap, you use whatever you can and go all out until the last 100. Then it’s everything,” explains Colton Lawson. “Once you get to about 150, it’s just who can kick farthest and hardest.

“It’s whoever can fight it out the strongest.”

NARROW FOCUS – Unable to play contact sports, Boyd’s Colton Lawson has enjoyed success on the track in the 800 and on relays. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

For Lawson, who will compete in the event at the 7/8-3A area meet Thursday in Jacksboro, rounding the final turn, he hears the instructions from his coaches and the occasional cheers from fans. But staring straight ahead, the finish line remains out of focus until the Boyd sophomore reaches the line.

“I just know that, when I’m running around the track and I’m in the final stretch, I’m going to run until I cross the line,” Lawson states. “I can’t really see the line until I get close enough. So, I just run and when I see it lean forward.”

The 16-year-old Lawson is legally blind. Even with his several millimeter-thick lenses in the glasses, he can only see a few yards ahead.

“The doctor said it as, ‘Something you could see at 100 feet, I could only see at 20,'” Lawson said.

Sitting at a table with words written on a white board in the athletic director’s office just 5 feet away, he points out that he can’t make out the simple sentences.

“Even with glasses on I can’t read them,” Lawson admits.

“We did this thing at the last track meet. I was messing with my trainer, and I took off my glasses to see how far away I could see his fingers and I think that was around 10 feet.”

Lawson’s eyesight has been this way since birth. He explains his eyes never fully developed. There’s no surgical solution, and his long-term prognosis is unknown.

“It’s gotten a little worse since I was younger. I normally get stronger prescriptions every other year,” Lawson said.

“Doctors don’t know yet. I may go my life with being able to see or eventually get to the point where I can’t use glasses anymore. They don’t know. It depends on how my eyes age.”

In class, he receives some help with equipment provided by a school for the blind. His teachers also enlarge papers for him.

“If they write something on the board, I’ll get out of my desk and go up to the board to read it or take a picture of it.

When the track team stops at restaurants, his teammates Caleb Rodriguez or Manny Garcia help him with the menu, reading the items to him. They don’t mind, as they are amazed with all he can do.

“I don’t know how he can see the lanes [on the track],” Rodriguez said. “It’s interesting.”

At track meets, he often needs coaches or teammates to point him in the proper direction to find people or places.

“He’s such a good kid, and you want to help him because he will help himself and tries to help others,” said Boyd track coach John Basting. “He loves to run. He has this inner confidence.

“He’s an A student because he works so hard. To have that impairment and do everything he does is amazing.”

Lawson has already been told that he will never be able to drive a car. Also, a majority of sports have always been off the table for fear of how it could impact his limited vision.

“I’m not allowed to play a contact sport because if I get hit in the head too hard I could go completely blind,” Lawson said.

In middle school, it was suggested he try track.

“All I know is one year my friends and coaches said, ‘you should try out for track; you’re pretty fast.’ I said, ‘all right.’ Next thing I know I’m running track four years still,” Lawson said.

When he first started running, he had to conquer one big fear.

“When I was younger, I use to think I hope my glasses don’t fall off when I’m running because I might not be able to pick them up,” Lawson admits. “Now, I’m further along [and I know] they are there. I don’t have to worry about them falling off.”

In his first year of high school, he immediately made an impact on the cross country and track teams. He earned a district medal in the 800 as a freshman, finishing third. He also ran on the district champion 4×400.

As a sophomore, he helped the cross country team to a second-place finish at district, turning in a top-10 finish.

“He’s really dedicated himself and works really hard,” said Boyd cross county and distance running coach Oscar Hernandez.

Lawson admits that cross country presents some challenges with the course markings. He simply tries to follow the people in front of him.

In track, he runs on a pair of relays. He starts out the 4×400 and makes a handoff. The real challenge comes in the 4×200 where he receives a handoff and makes one.

“I can’t see their face, so I look for their track suit, and we have bright yellow body gear,” Lawson said. “The tennis balls are just there. If it gets close, I’ll just go. It’s mostly about anticipation for me.

“The 4×200 coming around the corner and handing off to my teammate … hopefully I don’t miss his hand. I’ve had that happen in practice but never in a meet.”

Lawson’s specialty in high school has been the 800. It wasn’t his first choice, but a race he’s grown to appreciate.

“They just said we’re going to put you in the 800 and try it, and I got first place,” Lawson said.

His biggest strength is his unparalleled kick in the final 100 meters that allows him to make up a deficit or pull away from competitors.

“I’ve always got that final kick,” Lawson said. “I was just born with it. I’ve never really trained for it. It’s always been my competitive edge over people. When it came down to finishing, I’ve always had a stronger kick than most people.”

Basting has a better explanation.

“That strong finish is because of his heart,” he said.

Running has given Lawson confidence and a new purpose. He goes through multiple workouts on a majority of days, running with the cross country team before school and then a track workout.

“I have to thank my teammates and coaches for being there and helping me through this and putting me in the track life and cross country life,” Lawson said.

“It’s gotten me a new way to live my life. Before I would just go to school and come home,” he said. “I never thought of doing anything else until I got into cross country and track. Then I had a reason to start doing things and becoming more active.”

While others may see his lack of vision as a limitation on the track, it’s a strength in his view and one that keeps him pushing well past the finish line.

“It’s more of an advantage because people can see and know how much farther they have to go,” Lawson said. “I just try to finish and wait until I can see it.”

Adding to Team

ADDING TO TEAM – Colton Lawson helped Boyd to an 8-3A title by qualifying for area in three events. Messenger photo by Kelly Basting


Field Events: 10 a.m.
Running: 1 p.m.

Field Events: 10 a.m.
Running: 5 p.m.

Field Events: 12:30 p.m.
Running: 5:30 p.m.

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