After three years at Concordia College New York, senior Caroline Mora decided to take a chance her final year on campus and join the Women's Cross Country team. While returning to the rigors of competition after years away from it can be challenging enough for most, Mora also had to deal with a cerebellar ataxia condition that prevented her from participating in athletics for most of her life.
Cerebellar ataxia is caused by a disfunction of the cerebellum; symptoms include poor coordination, unsteady walk, difficulty speaking and swallowing, involuntary back-and-forth eye movements and difficulty performing fine-motor skills such as writing or buttoning a shirt.
"It has always affected me," Mora commented. "I never really got the opportunity to be a part of a team sport, I tried my hardest to be active growing up but could only do so much. I tried dance for a while, but realized that I could not do it and had to quit."
While her cerebellar ataxia prevented her from participating in athletics, it did not stop her from being heavily involved on campus during her first three years at Concordia College. She has served as the Secretary of Student Government and President of the Psychology Club on top of being an Academic Mentor, Peer Tutor and Orientation Committee Member.
"I have always been involved on campus," Mora said. "Nothing athletic, more extracurricular. They were nice, but I really wanted to get involved with a sports team at Concordia my final year. I remember that I ran cross country in middle school and wanted to know if I could still do it. I found Laura's [Brezovsky] contact information online and reached out to her about joining the team and she was all for it."
"I remember when Caroline asked to join the team," Head Men's And Women's Cross Country Coach Laura Brezovsky said. "She was very nervous and hesitant because she was not sure if she would be able to do it. I encouraged her to practice as much as she could and she did just that. It has been a pleasure to have her as a member of the cross country team."
Making her debut at the York College Invitational on Sept. 23, Mora instantly became a part of the team and ran in and finished the final three races on the team's 2018 schedule with nonstop encouragements from her teammates.
"The entire team supported me," said Mora. "They always cheered me on and hearing their encouragements helped lift me up when I was struggling to finish. Without them I'm not sure if I would have made it to the finish line each time. The aspect of being on a team and the family atmosphere that comes with it is something that I will miss when I graduate."
Mora will graduate this spring with a degree in social work. She plans to continue her education and earn her master's degree while continuing to challenge herself as she did her senior year at Concordia College.
"Being a part of the cross country team showed me that I can do more than I thought," Mora said. "I want to try more sports and other activities that I had previously thought I would never be able to do."
Mora's opportunities at Concordia College inspired her to continue to challenge herself, and she hopes that her journey can inspire others who have cerebellar ataxia.
"Try your hardest," Mora concluded. "Never give up. You are not less of a person just because you have this condition."