The timed, tape-measured world of track and field and all its internal struggles appear to fit the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School junior like that just-right pair of sneakers.

“It’s a matter of willpower and pushing yourself,” Stauble said. “I’ve learned my lessons, and I try to push myself now compared to when I started. I think it’s the people who push me, too. I owe it to them.”

Members of Stauble’s close-knit, far-flung village — it’s possible to drive an hour and not leave the district limits of RSU 17 — do push him. Pull him. Transport him. Challenge him. Pick him up and hug him, when necessary.

Blind from birth, adopted from an orphanage in India, Stauble reminds anyone who watches him run and jump that the things most of us consider impediments are man-made.

Paralympic athlete Josh Kennison was Stauble’s middle school coach. Born a quadrilateral congenital amputee, without feet and hands and with a jaw malformation, Kennison competes around the world as a sprinter on prosthetic legs.

At Oxford Hills’ recent home meet, Kennison ran side-by-side with Stauble, the protégé clinging to Kennison’s bicep as ran the 100 meters in 17.25 seconds, polished off the 200 in 36.82 seconds and soared nearly 10 feet in the long jump.

“I tell you what: I would much rather have what I have than what he has. To be running with no sight, I wouldn’t even want to walk. I wouldn’t want to leave my house,” Kennison said. “I see him and I see other blind athletes running at the Paralympic level, and it’s just amazing how much trust they have in other people. Really that inspires me to come out here and help him get to what his potential can be.”

Finding a home

Stauble was adopted by the family of Ray and Barbara Stauble.

“They’re good people,” he said. “I was adopted when I was 8 by my sister, Katie, who was a volunteer in India. She was working as a missionary in the orphanage.”

He attended Gray-New Gloucester schools through seventh grade, when his family moved to Harrison, where they own and operate the Greenwood Manor Inn.

“He’s always been a great kid. He’s friendly. He works hard. He’s determined,” said Kristin Dacko, coach of the running events at Oxford Hills and a teacher at the middle school. “Everybody knows Sudeep. He’s got a great personality. He’s not afraid to say hello and to joke around with you.”

Track has strengthened that confidence and cemented those friendships.

Stauble’s interest developed through an annual three-day camp for blind and visually impaired students in Orono, sponsored by the New England Blind Athletic Association. He learned the adaptive techniques and decided to apply them by joining the Vikings’ team his eighth-grade year.

“They get them to do anything a normal kid would do at camp,” Oxford Hills jumping coach Luc Roy said. “They teach them to get out there and do stuff.

It wasn’t without gentle skepticism on the home front.

“At first my parents were like, ‘How are you going to do this? Are you seriously going to try this?’ I was like, ‘I want to.’ At first I kind of doubted it myself, but I thought I might as well. I wanted to prove myself and prove them wrong,” Stauble said.

Helping hands

The process is relatively simple. A coach or a teammate runs beside Stauble in his running and jumping events, acting as a guide.

Stauble holds on either to the guide’s arm, or hand, or a short rope. The tricky part is making sure that he stays in his lane, as is required in sprints.

“He’s tried a lot. He’s done the 400, the 800. Then he decided he liked the feel of speed,” Roy said. “He has tried the long jump two different ways. We have tried him in the high jump with limited success. That’s really been hard for him in the pit. It’s a safety issue. But he would try the pole vault if I let him. He’s open to anything.”

In long jump, Stauble takes six long strides up the runway. His guide veers sharply to the left, and Stauble takes his leap of faith.

His personal record is beyond 12 feet. Other times he has fallen, but he brushed off the memory and any corresponding fear as hastily as he swept away the sand from his uniform.

“The hardest thing is just getting ourselves coordinated together and have the person catch up with me or slow down,” Stauble said. “That and also just knowing where you’re going, I guess.”

Teammates help lead Stauble through stretching exercises and direct him to his events at practices and meets. They also provide transportation from school to home when necessary.

Dacko, who ran the Boston Marathon in April, said that Stauble is one of the team’s most inquisitive and driven athletes.

“He loves track. He wants to do well. He wants to PR. He takes advantage of the coaching staff in a way where he wants to get the best out of it,” Dacko said. “It puts into perspective his view on things. You learn how to explain things really well, because you need to tell him how to move his body. It takes a lot of re-correcting.”

Man of many talents

“I think we learn best from other people,” Stauble said. “Not just in school but just role models, parents, friends, teachers. I just follow their example.”

So many could gain so much from modeling Stauble.

He began playing guitar and writing songs two years ago.

“I’ve been teaching myself,” he explained. “With schoolwork and all that, I usually give myself an hour a day or so. It’s very slow progress when you teach yourself.”

If you think winter furnishes free time to pursue that passion, think again.

Stauble has wrestled. And Maine Handicapped Skiing gives him the opportunity to test the slopes at Sunday River in Newry. A teacher skis in front of Stauble and guides by voice or two-way radio.

It’s an indicator that sports will be a lifelong love. Stauble is leaning toward going out for Roy’s cross country team as a senior.

The honor student also has researched each of his college choices to determine whether or not they have a track team or club. Stauble is looking at schools in the University of Maine system and hopes to continue his workouts, if the squad allows.

“My parents have been pushing me to try everything,” he said. “I’ve tried music. I’ve tried a lot of stuff. It’s just a matter of finding your niche, and I think track is that.”

Paralympics also are a possibility, said Oxford Hills’ trailblazer in that arena.

“In the 100 meters, blind athletes are going 10.9 (seconds). That’s quicker than me,” Kennison said. “It’s inspiring to recognize that they have to trust their guide. That makes me want to help this guy.”

‘Matter of trust’

Stauble hopes to combine his interests in history, psychology and English literature into a career.

Perhaps inspired by his own life journey, his ultimate goal is to work for an international organization.

“One career I’ve been looking at is a career with the United Nations,” Stauble said. “I know this guy. He’s also blind. He is a prosecutor for war crimes and stuff for the U.N. I feel like I could do that. There’s just too much evil in the world. Any sort of injustice angers me, even bullying in school that I witness.”

Although his own life hasn’t been free from such attacks, Stauble said that the Oxford Hills community and track team have treated him well.

“He’s got a good spirit, that’s for sure,” Roy said. “It reminds me a lot of Kennison, actually, and his spirit on the team, what he could accomplish with what he’s been dealt. It’s a lot like that. It’s pretty awesome.”

It is a supreme example of sports teaching life lessons, using the senses available to us.

Stauble, from the feel of the breeze in his face, the sound of the applause and the perception of the pounding in his heart. His teammates, from seeing the commitment of one who doesn’t have that capacity, yet lets it stop him from almost nothing.

“I’ve had my moments, and people have their moments,” Stauble said. “We’re all human. I think for all of us it’s a matter of trust. We have to trust each other, especially me. I have to.”


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