A high school track star from Arkansas has gone through more in her senior year than most people endure in a lifetime, but she didn’t let hardship stop her from running toward her dreams.
Track star Anya Sifuentes started her senior year of high school like any other student until her home life was turned upside down.
One day after school, Anya arrived at her house to discover that she couldn’t get inside.
“It was late September that things just started getting strange,” she explained to KFSM. “On October 1st, I went home right after I went after school and realized that I couldn’t get in my home anymore.”
“Somebody came in a red car saying ‘This is no longer your home. You have to leave. You can’t go inside,” Anya recalled.
After realizing she had nowhere to go, the high schooler sought the help of her track coach Jeff Smith.
“She called me and she was just distraught,” Smith said. “I said what’s the matter? She goes I’m homeless. I don’t have any clothes. I don’t have a place to go.”
Shortly after, Anya’s mother deserted her and Anya’s siblings.
“My mom started really acting weird and you could tell that she was late on all of her bills and she wasn’t acting the same anymore,” Anya said. “My mom said that ‘I’m not gonna stay with y’all.’ I thought, ‘Why?'”
It was then that Anya realized her life would never be the same.
“To think that we’d be separated — I did not like the feeling,” she said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be the same anymore.”
Anya became the sole provider of her household, juggling jobs and paying bills for a new apartment all while keeping up with school and track practice.
“It just slaps you in the face — knowing that you’re an adult now,” Anya said. “You can’t play around now. You can’t just slack off one day because it will hit you later.”
Anya says she relied on God and running track to help her get through such a difficult time.
“Like they say, ‘running away from your problems’—that’s what I did,” she said. ” I literally ran away from my problems. Even if it meant like 10 miles.”
Running offered the teen an escape from everything she was dealing with at home. So much so, that she threw herself into track practice and got faster and faster.
It wasn’t long before Anya’s track accomplishments caught the eye of college recruiters and she was offered a scholarship to run at the University of the Ozarks.
The senior signed on last month.
Reflecting on how different her life is now, Anya says she feels strong for pushing forward even when things were unimaginably hard.
“I just look back and think, ‘This is who you are. You’re someone strong,'” she said. “You don’t give up easily. Even though times get rough, you have to keep going. Even though you fall down, you have to keep going.”