"With the sound of a whistle Friday afternoon, Heaven Vallejos bolted from the start line and sprinted around a field in northeast Fresno, racing toward a finish line she couldn't see."
Thus began Saturday's story by The Bee's Diana Aguilera about Heaven, a fourth-grader at Mountain View Elementary School who hasn't let blindness prevent her from running, competing and enjoying the outdoors like others her age.
Heaven's determination isn't surprising. Her father, Frank Vallejos, was named the Fresno City College dean's medallion winner in social sciences in 2010 -- 32 years after he dropped out of high school.
Frank's father, Julian, had always told him that college would make a difference in his life.
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But it wasn't until Frank and his two sons took in twin "preemies" -- blind since birth and brought into the world weighing less than a pound each -- that he really saw a need to further his education.
He later adopted those babies: Heaven and her brother, Allen.
"I couldn't see those babies going into the system," Frank told The Bee three years ago. "It was obvious to me that they were miracle babies."
When Heaven told her dad on the first day of school this year that she wanted to run on the school team, he encouraged her to pursue her goal: "I knew somehow she was going to make it happen."
Over the next two months, Heaven worked closely with Clovis Unified School District special education instructor Norm Alston. He ran next to her during Friday's meet with Copper Hills Elementary School.
"It's almost like she's my daughter," Alston said. "I want to take care of her but also help her achieve what she wants in running."
Heaven, Frank and the entire Vallejos family remind us of the obstacles you can overcome when you set goals, work hard and are supported by others.
Heaven says that she would like to compete in a triathlon.
Yes, there are triathlons in which the blind compete. During the swim and run, the athlete and a guide are connected by bungeelike cords; in the cycling portion, the guide and athlete ride on a tandem bicycle. "I know I will do it," Heaven says.