AVON, Ind. – In the months ahead, Noah Malone could race in track and field meets on three continents. He is poised to break world records and win international medals.
Before any of that, though, he is aiming at something else: To win the 100 or 200 meters, or both, in the May 31 state meet at Bloomington.
“I’ve been working hard for it. I certainly think I’m right there,” said Malone, a Hamilton Southeastern (Fishers, Ind.) junior. “That is definitely the goal this year, to win both of them.”
He set meet records in both Friday night at the Hoosier Crossroads Conference meet.
His time of 10.62 seconds in the 100 not only broke the HCC record of 10.65 — set by Avon’s Isaac Guerendo last year — but also the para athletics world record of 10.66 in his T-12 class for the visually impaired. There was no formal wind reading, so the record won’t be ratified, but HSE brought an anemometer that calculated 1.5 meters per second (under the allowable 2.0). Later, despite favoring a sore hamstring, Malone won the 200 in 21.81 to break a 42-year-old HCC mark.
No. 7-ranked Brownsburg won the team title, ending Avon’s four-year run. No. 4 Fishers finished second. Franklin Central’s Malachi Quarles swept the hurdles and set an HCC record in the highs at 14.15, fastest in the state this year.
Malone’s story has been chronicled. In 2015, he noticed his eyesight was worsening, and he was diagnosed with Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, which affects the optic nerve. About 100 Americans a year lose central vision to the disease.
Malone is not any American. The 17-year-old is an elite sprinter. He takes two classes, world history and weightlifting, at HSE and others at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
He is a rising star for U.S. Paralympics, something that HSE sprint coach Luke Stone said Malone has embraced. Malone was once uneasy about others knowing about his visual impairment. Now he regularly wears Team USA gear to school and elsewhere.
“Everybody knows now. There’s nothing to hide,” he said.
In last weekend’s Drake Relays, he won the Paralympics 100 and 200 in 10.65 and 21.70 (wind-aided but with temperatures in the 40s). Before that, he won the 60 meters in 6.87 at the Hoosier State Relays, an unofficial state indoor meet.
“For him to finally step on top of that podium was a big deal and a huge confidence boost that will continue through the outdoor season,” Stone said.
The Indiana High School Athletic Association has no record of a disabled athlete winning a state title.
Hunter Woodhall, running on prosthetic blades, won a 400-meter state title in Utah in 2017. (He won silver and bronze medals at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.) A blind pole vaulter, Charlotte Brown, finished third in Texas in 2015.
Malone is taking charge at meets now, Stone said, checking visual landmarks and walking through his surroundings. The sprinter said his training has become more technical as he concentrates on starts and form. He is being recruited and has made unofficial visits to Indiana, Purdue and Marian universities.
“When he was a freshman, he was still processing and learning how to live with the disability,” Stone said. Now, the coach said, Malone “loves getting after it.”
After the high school season, the HSE sprinter could represent Team USA in three major meets: para athletics junior worlds at Nottwil, Switzerland; Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru; World Para Athletics Championships in November at Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Next year are the Tokyo Paralympics. That’s getting awfully far ahead. Indeed, Malone can see a finish line only from four steps away.
“That’s always the most panicky thing that could happen,” he said. “I have to really time it correctly. Because I can only see the finish line a tenth of a second before it comes up.”
At the rate he is running, Malone is eliminating possibility of close finishes.