05/09/2013 02:24 pm ET

Aria Ottmueller, Blind Pole Vaulter At Arizona High School, Makes State (VIDEO)

Of all the hurdles Aria Ottmueller has faced in her life, pole vaulting may be the highest.

With 20-400 vision, the 17-year-old is legally blind, but somehow that hasn't stopped her from all manner of activities even eagle-eyed people would steer clear of. She's competed in nearly every gymnastics event, including the balance beam ("I couldn't see the beam at all," Ottmueller recalled to Fox Sports Arizona. "I did it mainly off of feel."); then cheerleading; then horse jumping.

Her sophomore year at Valley Christian High School in Chandler, Ariz., Ottmueller joined the track and field team. After competing in various events, she approached her coach about learning how to pole vault.

"I talked to the head coach and he was just like, 'No you can't pole vault!'" she recalled to CBS local affiliate KPHO. But she did anyway, learning to count her steps so she knew when to plant the pole and soar into the darkness.

"What they didn't realize was how persistent Aria is," her mother, Maria Giordano, explained to high school sports news site MaxPreps. "Aria has the courage to do anything regardless of whether she is going to fail or not."

Aria has certainly not failed.

Though she can barely distinguish between the track she's sprinting down and the grass next to it, notes MaxPreps, she consistently plants her pole in the right spot to clear a bar she cannot see, all via muscle memory.

"I can't really see anything -- I can't see the pit, or the mat, or the bar," she told local news outlet East Valley Tribune with a laugh. "I can't look down to see the runway. ... [W]hen I jump, I'm just looking ahead."

Now a junior, she's qualified to compete at the state track meet this weekend, where she's aiming to jump at least 7 feet, 6 inches -- a height she cleared at last year's meet to earn eighth place.

Says Aria with a shrug and a smile, thinking about it all, "You can't be afraid of what you can't see."