High school runners helped teammate with cancer cross the finish line

Many high school athletes were sidelined in 2020 when their school programs shut down due to the pandemic. But for runner Yeva Klingbeil, a fight with cancer was keeping her from the sport she loves.

In the fall of 2019, the Shenendehowa High School student was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of cancer most common in children and adolescents that affects the muscle tissue in her jaw. She had a large mass attached to a nerve in her face and required immediate treatment.

Within a year, Klingbeil’s tumor had shrunk in half. However, the treatment led to additional medical issues for the upstate New York teen. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments for her condition left Klingbeil weak, struggling to swallow and even breathe independently.

She spent six weeks in the intensive care unit and had to learn how to sit, stand and breathe on her own again. Even after going home, she was on a feeding tube and supportive ventilator, continuing her treatments and working with specialists.

“It was sad because I couldn’t run with them,” Klingbeil told Good Morning America. “But I’d come to meets and cheer them on and still get together with my friends.”

But along with their coach, the Shenendehowa High School girls’ cross country and track teams didn’t give up on their teammate. It’s a tradition at Shenendehowa for seniors to run the 4×100 meter relay race at the last home meet. Even though she had undergone chemo earlier that day, Klingbeil was there. And her team was there for her.

The Shenendehowa Athletic Program at her Clifton, New York, high school posted this image of Klingbeil and three of her friends walking on the track together.

And this video on the school’s Twitter account shows the teens crossing the finish line, only to be met by a crowd of young women from multiple schools chanting Yeva’s name.

“What a great moment to see Senior Yeva Klingbeil at today’s girls track & field meet,” posted @ShenAthletics. “Yeva’s teammates help her across the line in the 4X1 relay. Yeva continues her fight with cancer and we continue to be amazed by her spirit!!”

Last autumn, the team’s coach, Rob Cloutier, ran a marathon to raise money for Klingbeil and her family. Klingbeil shared the $21,474 her coach raised with Family Reach, a nonprofit organization that helps ease the financial burdens families face when a cancer diagnosis is given.

Here’s a post @ShenAthletics made upon Cloutier’s accomplishment:

Although her treatment continues, Klingbeil remains positive and dedicated.

“Soon I hope to walk by myself, and the fact that I’ve come so far in that amount of time, it gives me hope,” she told WTEN News.

Her next big goal is walking across the graduation stage to accept her diploma.