E.A. Sports Today

Holding his own

PV’s Smith hasn’t let vision problems hold him back in the game of life

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

CULLMAN – Marshall Smith has had a long and productive career at Pleasant Valley High School, but through all those years he’s played with a secret only his coaches and teammates ever knew.

He is legally blind.

You’d never know it, and that’s how he likes it. He doesn’t wear corrective lenses and his performances in the field of play are as consistent as any you’ll find, but he makes his way through this world with 20/200 vision.

He plays basketball and made all-area this past season. On the track he runs the 300 hurdles and pole vault, an event harrowing enough for even the most able-sighted athlete.

In Saturday’s Class 1A-3A state track meet, he finished 11th in the 400, 11th in pole vault and scored points for the Raiders Saturday with a fourth-place finish in the 300 hurdles that likely will be the last race he ever runs.

“I wasn’t going to let this hold me back,” he said. “I think I can hold my own with almost anybody. I know I’m not the best, but I try and do as good as I can.

“I think my eyesight today has made me strive to be as good as I can, make me have good work ethic, and be as good a person as I can.”

Smith can see shapes and objects, it’s words and letters than give him trouble. For years classmates have seen him carry books with large-print type and never gave it a second thought.

He has always been active in sports, whether it be playing basketball as a fifth-grader or joining the track team as a ninth-grader, but the one game he hadn’t quite got a handle on was golf.

“Golf was the hardest because the white ball is challenge,” he said, “but I had some good friends who helped me keep up with my ball and all that; it worked out pretty good.”

From the way he has seen Smith handle himself in other sports, teammate Nick Robbins is convinced given enough time he’d get the hang of it.

“He’s a phenomenal athlete, especially out here,” Robbins said as they waited for their first event of the day. “Put him in any event, he’d do decent, if not excel.”

As he moves closer to graduation, Smith is making plans for the future. He will attend Gadsden State next year, but probably won’t play sports in college, and that’s OK with that.

“I enjoyed high school,” he said, “I just think I’m done now.”

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