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A runner with cancer crossed the finish line at her last school track meet with her teammates

When track star Yeva Klingbeil was diagnosed with cancer, she had to stop attending meets. But her coach would not let her end her high school track career without a big send-off.

A runner with cancer crossed the finish line at her last school track meet with her teammates
Image Source: Twitter/ ShenAthletics

Yeva Klingbeil, aged 18, was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma during her junior year of high school. Rhabdomyosarcoma is a rare type of cancer that affects one's muscle tissue. As a result, she had to undergo months of debilitating chemotherapy and radiation treatments. This meant she was too weak to continue her career as a high school track star. However, Klingbeil, now a senior at Shen High School, in Clifton Park, New York, was surprised during her last track meet when she got to compete at the end of the season and cross the finish line with all her teammates, Good Morning America reports.

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"It was sad because I couldn’t run with them," the teen said of her teammates in an interview with the news outlet. "But I’d come to meets and cheer them on and still get together with my friends." This was an isolating experience, but things took a turn for the worse as schools went virtual during the Coronavirus pandemic. Most importantly, all track meets for the season were canceled. When the young student was informed by her doctors that her cancer had returned, she was forced to undergo even more chemotherapy. This left Klingbeil feeling even more isolated.

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The runner's track coach Rob Cloutier, nonetheless, reached out to her to find out if she would like to join her teammates in a 4x100 relay at the last home track meet of the season. This is a tradition practiced by the seniors of the track team at Shen High School every year. He shared, "I told her I’d like her to anchor, which is the final leg of the relay. It’s a moment she’s been a part of many times [watching seniors run the race] so I wanted her to be able to do it one last time." Although Klingbeil was just starting to walk again at the time—she was using a wheelchair owing to complications from chemotherapy—she was dedicated to running her high school track one last time with her teammates.

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"When I heard they were doing it, I was like, ‘That’s awesome, let’s get a team together,'" Klingbeil said. "I’d wanted to do it since freshman year, watching the seniors. I remember thinking, ‘That’s going to be me one day.’" On the day of her last track meet, the runner underwent a chemotherapy treatment following which she promptly put on her team uniform for the first time in over a year. At the relay, when it was her turn to run the anchor leg, her three teammates joined her. They linked arms and crossed the finish line together. In addition to her teammates, Klingbeil was joined by the entire Shen High School track team. The runners rushed over to her and chanted her name as she crossed the finish line.

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The student stated, "That was a great surprise. I feel accomplished because crossing the line was a perfect end of my high school track career." Klingbeil's mom said she "knew she could do it." She affirmed, "She is determined. She sets her alarm every day to work out." Coach Cloutier, who has watched the teen go through her cancer battle, added, "This past year, everyone has had their struggles, but for people to watch what Yeva has been through puts it in perspective. She’s worked through this challenge in her life without a single complaint and with a smile on her face. I think everyone who has witnessed her can learn a little bit from that."

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