By Chris McDaniel - Norwell Mariner
Norwell's Michaela Flaherty grew up wearing glasses because of blurry vision.
The older she got the more her vision started to suffer.
Finally while a sophomore at Norwell High, Flaherty was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that slowly seeps away her vision.
"As a little kid, I had eye issues but they never connected it to Retinitis Pigmentosa until I was in 10th grade," said Flaherty. "They said I just needed glasses because I had blurry vision but when it got worse, it turned out to be RP.
"(It was) kind of overwhelming. (I was) scared."
Despite having RP, Flaherty has found plenty of success as a runner.
On Oct. 12, Flaherty finished in first place in the 39th Tufts Health Plan 10K in the women's new blind and visually impaired division.
The Assumption College sophomore traversed the 10K course in 46:51.
"It went very well," said Flaherty of the race. "I felt really good during the race.
"(My strategy) was to just take it one step at a time."
Tufts added its newest division thanks to a partnership with the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
"With so few races in New England incorporating blind or visually impaired divisions, we think it's important to give these dedicated athletes who are blind or visually impaired the opportunity to compete alongside everyone else and inspire others around the world," said Barbara Salisbury, CEO of MABVI in a press release. "Our mission is to show the world that 'disability' does not mean 'inability' and that with the right support, people who are visually impaired can accomplish anything they set their minds to. We are so happy to be working with Tufts Health Plan, an organization that shares our beliefs in empowerment and healthy living."
Flaherty ran track and cross country at Norwell High before graduating in 2014. She's continued both sports at Assumption.
Her vision problems arise most at night.
"Sometimes it's hard when there's a lot of sun because the glare bothers me," said Flaherty, "and then sometimes when it's cloudy it might bother me or if it's foggy.
"Running helps relieve some of the stress."
Flaherty joined a field of more than 5,000 runners of all ages and abilities on the course, which started and ended at the Boston Common. The course runs through the Back Bay before heading through Cambridge with a loop around the Charles River.
Flaherty's running career at Assumption is off to a fast start.
As a freshman, she finished 44th at the Worcester City Championships during the cross country season. During the winter track season, she ran a season-best time of 21:46 in the 5,000 meters to place 13th at the Gordon Kelly Invitational. In outdoor track, Flaherty placed ninth in the 5,000 at the Wesleyan Spring Break Invitational.
Flaherty is studying human services.