No Challenge Too Big: Campbell inspires teammates as a vision-impaired athlete

Alex Campbell competes in a Ozark Conference Cross Country meet, held in Springfield.

Doctors believed Alex Campbell would die prematurely at birth. He survived.

At just 2-weeks-old old, Campbell faced serious surgeries on both his eyes and heart. He survived.

Since then, Campbell has faced the challenges of living with partial-blindness; 11/11 vision, to be exact.

This past weekend, he finished a cross-country meet in Springfield with a time of 35:59, eclipsing his previous personal record by 1:16. Now, it’s not a question of survival. For Campbell, it’s about thriving as an athlete and inspiring others along the way.

When Campbell was growing up, he says he was presented with two options in the athletic field that would work based on his vision: swimming or running. He said the choice was easy for him and decided to focus his training on running and cross country.

For Campbell, running is more than just a way to compete. He says his grandparents faced obesity issues growing up and he wanted to change course. He wants to set an example of healthy living for his family. Campbell has been training since a young age and now competes as a vision-impaired athlete in Camdenton among a field of those with no disadvantage. Even so, he holds his own.

Racing with this disadvantage can come with difficulties that may not effect everyone equally. At his most recent meet in Springfield, a worn-down race track left Campbell with poor track lines to follow. He says that he uses crowds on the sides of the tracks and forests in the distance to gauge where to move along the race. With the white lines not nearly as visible as they should have been, Campbell says he was scared.

“I notice woods or homes in the distance. Cones and metal poles help too. Those white lines are just as important,” Campbell said.

Noticing Campbell’s discomfort, a trio of Camdenton cross country racers entered the race to run alongside Campbell as he finished out the course. These added challenges are common for him, as coach Lauren Moriearty says they’ve faced this problem with races many times before. Even so, this hasn’t stopped him from continuing to race year-after-year, as Campbell has now taken part in over 10 races in high school alone.

Moriearty says that, as his coach, it’s been incredible to watch Campbell perform. She says she lets Campbell be as independent as possible during training, giving him the same push as she would any other athlete on the team.

“He’s always on board to face any challenge,” Moriearty said. “He’s independent and he takes care of business every time.”

Seeing her team rally behind Campbell at their last race made Moriearty proud. She says it says a lot about the team as a whole, who she can’t say enough about being such a great group of kids.

“It takes a lot from the inside to compete as he does. He has a ton of upward potential,” Moriearty said.

Campbell hopes that his success on the field will inspire those who face similar challenges to himself. More than anything, however, he wants to inspire his family and show them how much he can accomplish. With his junior and senior years still ahead, Campbell has one final goal: to medal alongside his team.

“I’m happy that I can inspire those people who come from those backgrounds like me,” Campbell said.