Perfect Stride, Part 1: Annie Stevenson's Journey From Disability to Long-Distance

By Ari Alexander, Reporter

MARION -- There is no loneliness in sports like that of the long-distance runner. It is a singular battle against time, against will, and against physical limits.

For Linn-Mar junior Annie Stevenson, it's a battle against a body not built for breaking the tape.

"My legs don't hurt," Stevenson said in sign language. "They're just slower."

Kelly and Cindy Stevenson adopted Annie from South Korea at six months, but there were signs that were later confirmed: Annie had Cerebral Palsy.

"I was just sad," Cindy said. "What entered my mind is that I would never be able to see her ride a bike."

C.P. is a disease that affects everyone differently. For Annie it tightens the muscles on her right side, and in her mouth. She can't speak, but her thinking was never affected.

"We knew that she was very smart, a very smart, alert baby," Cindy said. "So you know that things are going to be pretty much okay."

A 4.0 student, Annie participates in just about everything.

"I am in student council, FBLA, National Honor Society, Youth Leadership for 5 seasons," she said.

And of course, communication is key. She gets in touch with her coach by texting and writing.

Even though sometimes it can be frustrating, her teammates are there to pick her up.

"Yes, but in cross country I don't feel [left out]," she said. "My teammates are always trying to include me in everything."

When Annie was little, running didn't seem like a real option. Before her first surgery, her legs had turned inward.

"She had her femurs cut and rotated and then muscles cut and lengthened and then pins put in," Cindy said. "All of that was about when she was five."

Watch KCRG tomorrow at 6 p.m. for Part 2 of Annie's story.
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