Pilot Cup: Anthony an all-around champ

Anthony Rath, a 12-year-old fifth-grader who played for Newport Heights Elementary in the 13th annual Daily Pilot Cup, has anaridia. That means he has no irises and is legally blind.

Anthony cannot really see much more than 10 or 15 feet in front of him. Yet despite being born with that disability, the dark-blonde boy with the spiky flat-top haircut from Newport Beach, is able to not only get by in sports and in life. He is thriving.

Anthony was among several unique stories at the Pilot Cup. The forward was one of several boys and girls who embodied the spirit of the weeklong soccer tournament.

He had three shots on goal during Saturday's quarterfinal game, one of which came close to going in for a goal. He has played soccer since he was old enough to play.

Anthony was a champion long before the Pilot Cup. And, he also became a champion at the tournament. The Newport Heights boys' team Anthony played for won the fifth- and sixth-grade silver division title in dramatic fashion. Newport Heights won on PKs, 4-2, against St. John the Baptist.

Soccer isn't the only sport Rath competes in, as he also plays football and basketball. Just like soccer, he plays at two demanding positions, a wide receiver in football and a guard in basketball.

He's also a junior lifeguard.

"I wear contacts to help me out," Anthony said Saturday. "I like playing sports and I'm determined to win. When the ball's close, I can tell the ball's there. When it's not, I can't really see it."

In class, Anthony has a gadget called an Acrobat that helps him see the whiteboard or chalkboard better.

For all of Anthony's athletic gifts, despite the fact he's legally blind, he is treated like any other kid – by his parents, friends, classmates and the community.

"My friends treat me like they normally would," Anthony said.

Tracy Rath, his mother, and Francis Rath, his father, have enjoyed the relationship between Newport Heights and their son.

"Every single one of his friends have embraced him," Tracy Rath said. "We've been very lucky. The attitude of all the parents toward Anthony has been great, and they've taught their kids to look at him the same way. There's been no issues and if there had been, I'm sure his friends would stick up for him. They've made him believe in himself."

Francis Rath, who works for a distribution company in Newport Beach, has also noticed how his fellow classmates are nice to him.

"I think they have respect for him," Francis Rath said. "He picks it up at five feet. When he gets a hold of it, he just takes off. He's a great kid. He was the best reader in first grade. He loves to read."

A good example of how his classmates and teammates treat Anthony came in football.

"In football, his quarterback tells him, 'I'll throw you the ball,'" Tracy Rath said. "'But if you don't catch it, I may not throw it to you again.' Just like he'd tell any other receiver out there. They've made him believe in himself. It's been an amazing experience."

Adding to that experience was a championship medal and a trophy for Newport Heights at the Daily Pilot Cup.

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