Never stop moving forward
But sometimes it takes blood, sweat and tears
When I was 12 years old, at the USA Gymnastics Nationals in Orlando, Florida, I won a national title on the uneven bars. It was my last competition as a gymnast. Not long after, I suffered a severe back injury. I decided to try competitive cheerleading, placing 11th in the world with my team.
In 2015, I started high school, where I found my love for track and field. Michael Fernandez, the head track coach at Wayne High School in Huber Heights, Ohio, showed an infinite amount of confidence in me. My freshman outdoor track season started off strong.
Leading up to the conference meet, I started feeling very fatigued. Then I experienced joint pain, swelling and stiffness, which turned out to be rheumatoid arthritis. After multiple tests and consultations, I was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease that affects every organ in the body.
The worst part of it all was hearing my doctor tell me he was not sure if I was going to be able to continue to run.
I began my sophomore year of high school and decided I was not ready to retire.
Coach Fernandez studied what lupus was and how to make sure that I could be successful and healthy. I qualified for state in the long jump.
My senior year, I was getting ready to run the 100m hurdles at the district meet. If I did not have at least the third- fastest time, my season was over. Just 15 minutes before my heat, I was hunched over in the bathroom with a severe kidney infection — my third kidney infection that season. But, there was no way I wasn’t running. I sat on the ground as my mom tied up my spikes.
Then I stepped up to the line. I quite literally put my blood, sweat and tears into that race. I qualified for regionals and became the first female athlete at Wayne High School to qualify for state in four events.
People viewed me as an athlete. They knew me for the history I made, not for my disease. I gained wisdom realizing this. I began to wonder what people around me were secretly going through. I couldn’t help but feel this empathy for everyone and realize how kindness really goes a long way.
Sophomore year at UD, I made the second-best long jump in program history and placed second at the indoor Atlantic 10 conference championship in the pole vault. [In the outdoor league championship this spring, she also took second in the pole vault.]
Although track and field is still the love of my life, I found a love for journalism. I began hosting a series of live interviews called On the Fly.
Each student-athlete I interview has a unique story.