Good Sports: Heaven Vallejos

FRESNO, Calif.

"Being with her it has just enlightened me to understand what we take for granted," said her coach, Norm Alston. "Her character and personality – she's like a light bulb in a room. Wherever she goes she lights up. And that's how I feel whenever I get ready to come coach her."

Heaven was born with premature retinopathy, and has been blind her entire life. But with the help of Coach Norm describing the lay of the land, Heaven has already shaved more than three minutes off her personal best time in just six weeks.

"It was hard at the beginning when I started cross-country but it's getting easier," Heaven explained. "I'm getting used to running every single day."

"It's just brought her so much joy and I see her self-determination," said Heaven's father, Frank Vallejos. "She's proud of herself. I know she is. She's just so happy to be doing something that everybody else is doing."

Heaven's cross country running is just the tip of the iceberg. She has much bigger goals for the future.

"I want to do a triathlon," Heaven said. "Or run swim and do something else. I don't know."

She's also teaching lessons that apply to not only her fellow fourth graders, but to her coaches and parents as well.

"It's just look and observe and then understand that hey – there's life to what's going on and just enjoy it," said Alston. "She enjoys every day. And that's how I've been starting to do that now. And it's neat."

Heaven's fellow cross country runners have already given her the biggest compliment of all.

"At one of my meets at a couple weeks ago we went to Freedom, a fifth grader that was able to see thought I was pretty good," Heaven said.

Asked if that's the best compliment she's heard, Heaven had a simple, but quick answer.


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