VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - As the "Fall National Championship Week" continues for the United States Collegiate Athletic Association, cross country runners are gearing up for a brisk run on Friday morning.
Back and injury-free to try and add a third USCAA National Championship is Cleary University runner Elaine LeBarge. After winning in 2013 and 2014, LeBarge had an injury-riddled 2015, but fought through it to help the team. Fighting through isn't foreign to LeBarge, it's actually a lifestyle. "She's definitely someone who's been through a lot in her life. Especially the last couple of years, she's fought through injuries but she's someone with a lot of determination and guts," her teammate Natasha Stephenson says.
Her biggest battle came when she was barely a teenager. LeBarge was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin's Lymphoma. " I had it from my neck, and it wrapped down into my lungs so I was using half of my lung capacity, and they said I had it for a few months [during cross country season]," LeBarge says. "'I had a lot of chemotherapy. I ran through the entire process, and they were actually surprised at how well I was able to handle it."
But not LeBarge, and not her legs. She's prided herself on always "going hard" because she says it's the only speed she knows. "You have to have strengths and weaknesses and you just have to build up on your weaknesses. And just going hard all the time is my weakness."
Her coaches have had to slow her down to make sure she doesn't injure herself. "We had a tough time getting her to trust the process and not rush back, but she's resilient, she never gives up," says her head coach Sarah Boyle.
The Women's Championship 6K race starts at 9:30 a.m. at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex, with the men's 10K race following at 10:30 a.m.