Young Woman Runs Through Alleged Sexual Abuse And Cancer To Track And Field Scholarship (Video)
Here is the story about a young woman named Latipha Cross who has overcome numerous obstacles in her life, from homelessness to alleged sexual abuse to cancer (twice), to earn a full track and field scholarship to Eastern Michigan University.
It began at a young age when Latipha was born in Detroit and abandoned almost immediately by her teenage mother. "I wanted to know why she didn't want me," says Latipha.
At the age of 6, Latipha then lost her sister to a drive-by shooting. And to compound the pain of her childhood, she says her adopted parents often beat her. "I remember one time I got hit with a belt until I threw up," says Latipha. "That scared me. They would just hit me. It became so common to me that I felt that it was, 'Ok, they still love me. That's just the way it is'."
But Latipha found her safe haven on the track. Her middle school coach says "she ran angry," never losing a race.
In 2010, as a sophomore in high school, Latipha became homeless, trying to get away from her situation. She would even stay in different parks, spending the night. "My greatest fear was dying out here and getting to used to being out here, being homeless, losing track of my dream," says Latipha, at one of the parks she spent many nights in.
Latipha then reconnected with her biological father, a glimmer of hope in what had been a very hard life for her. But that changed one day, when she says her father punched her in the chest and sexually assaulted her. "He swore he would kill me. He swore he would set me on fire. It's like I looked into the eyes of the devil that day."
And, amazingly, Latipha overcame this too and won every single race in her track meet the next day, despite being bruised and beaten, as she says.
As a junior at Southfield High School, Latipha was able to find shelter by living with a friend, but there was still another hurdle for her to go through: she was diagnosed with melanoma, a form of skin cancer. But she went through the chemo treatments and continued to win, setting a record in the state finals.
Colleges and universities all wanted Latipha. "I got 50 colleges wanting me and I get to choose where I want to go," says Latipha. "That's the best feeling in the world. I feel like I'm the president of the United States. I feel like I'm Superman or something."
Latipha ended up choosing Eastern Michigan. But just when you think she overcame everything, another obstacle: lymphoma. She was diagnosed with this form of cancer in her senior year.
After going through chemo and other health issues, Latipha defended her state championship in her senior year, but lost by less than a second. It was a disappointing moment for her, but a "heroic" performance according to her future track coach at Eastern Michigan.
Latipha is now a freshman at Eastern Michigan. Latipha is among the track team's best in the 400 meters. She's found much more than just a place to live at the university. She's found a home and a place that can help her achieve her goals in life:
The college is paying for me to become a social worker. And they are paying for me to to do something that I love, which is track. That scholarship means the world to me.
With a past like this, it truly is amazing what Latipha Cross has accomplished in her young life. Her life is an incredible story of taking a negative, in her case a ton of negatives, and turning them into positives:
I've been through a lot in my life. I use my past and I use what I've been through as my fuel. I use that as my drive. You're not going to win without me putting up a fight. I'm not going to give up.
Watch her complete story below, as covered wonderfully by ESPN's Jeremy Schaap.