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Poland sophomore runs an inspiring race
June 13, 2018

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At the age of three months old, Olivia Spencer was the last person anyone would have expected to see running track in high school. She was diagnosed with Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy. The condition saw her using a leg brace just to be able to walk and hardly able to use her left hand at all. On one foot, she walked on her toes because of a tendon issue.

In the sixth grade, she underwent surgery to lengthen her tendon. Not only did the surgery work, but it freed her from the brace and allowed her to walk on her own. Eventually she found herself moving faster and at the end of sixth grade, she came home with papers to attend summer camp for basketball.

"It was far too competitive and physical," said Olivia's mother Maria.

There was another sports camp for track that Maria said she and her husband Michael agreed to let Olivia try.

"I tried it and I loved it," Olivia said.

When she entered the seventh grade, she signed up for the track team and has been doing it ever since. She also turns up at the summer camps to help other young athletes perfect their skills.

Olivia hasn't finished in first place, yet, but she has finished on top of the game. She has not ran a race she didn't finish.

"I keep thinking catch up, catch up, catch up," she said. "I am always comparing myself to other people, which is not a good thing to do."

She never gives gives up though, and always crosses that finish line. She said her brother Jonah, 18, who graduated from PSHS this spring, is the one who pushed her to stay the course.

Presently she competes in the 100 and 200 meter dashes for Poland. Often she crosses the line with a lot of cheering from the stands. As for her teammates, she is serving as an inspiration to never give up, even when the odds are against finishing.

"Hwe whole life she has exceeded our expectations," Maria said. "If someone would have told me years ago that daughter was going to run track in high school, I would have not believed it."

Even Olivia said she never thought she would be running track on the Bulldog Track Team. She said, for her, it is cool to be a part of a team.

She even has a new way of looking at her races. She said she always would come in last, but now she looks at a four-person race as coming in fourth, and "that is just three away from first."

"She had to overcome so much to enable her to even walk nonetheless run," said close family friend Tracie Balentine. "Hers is just a very inspiring story."

And that story is far from over. Olivia said she plans to stay with track through high school. She eventually wants to attend college and study marine biology.

In the meantime, she will continue to work hard, and help others along the way. And she will always make across that finish line as a star of the Poland High School Track Team.

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