DENTON - Most runners listen to music when they train, but Denton Ryan's best cross country runner takes the sound out. Before Cameron Jackson runs, he removes his hearing aids.
"To have someone that plays sports and has a disability too, and have them together, I think it's a good combination for them to kind of show people and kind of be inspiring," said Jackson, a senior.
Not being able to hear shouldn't be a big problem in cross country, except most of the time Cameron is alone in first place, and he can't hear how far behind everyone else is. In September, he ran a 5,000 meter race and recorded the best time in the nation (it has since been bested). During a meet, Cameron will look for his coaches, who position themselves on the course and use hand signals to help him.
"If he's doing good, thumbs up," said Jayme Kiraly, one of the team's assistant coaches. "If he needs to hold," Kiraly holds out her hands to show the signal to hold. "If you point behind him, he knows that we're talking about another runner, and we'll try to give him a distance."
When we asked Cameron about the hand signals, he kept looking off camera at his coaches to remind him what the signals were. At one point, he was trying to remember what the signal for "slow down" was. His coach said, "We never slow down," which made him laugh when he realized what he was asking.
Teammate Logan Rodgers says Cameron pushes him in practice, and admits he can't reciprocate, because Cameron is just too fast. Logan can see both advantages (better focus) and disadvantages (not hearing where the other runners are) to running without hearing anything.
"Sometimes it's beneficial, and sometimes it can also affect him when kids are running behind him," said Logan. "But just the pace that he's going there's usually nobody behind him."
One of the people Cameron has inspired is his teammate, freshman runner Nick Barrera, who also has a disability. He's legally blind.
"I can see you, but like if it was a little bit more farther, I couldn't see you," Barrera said to me, as I stood about four feet in front of him. "Or if it was darker, I wouldn't be able to see you either."
Nick's condition is called optic nerve atrophy. His peripheral vision is not bad, but he has a very hard time seeing anything in front of him, and sometimes he'll trip and fall.
"Sometimes I fall, but I just get back up," said Nick.
And that makes him an inspiration too.