By LILLIAN REESE — On your mark, get set, go! On May 3, the St. Jerome Academy (SJA) Beginner Running and Fitness Club took the track to showcase their speed for fans at the University of Maryland’s (UMD) Kehoe Track.
At Maryland’s final track and field meet of the season, the team invited Angelo Torrealba and the rest of the SJA beginning running club to participate in the Team IMPACT 100-meter and 400-meter dash.
Angelo, a Hyattsville native, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia shortly before his third birthday. He has been receiving treatments, including chemotherapy, since 2016. He was drafted by the Maryland track and field team in November 2018 through Team IMPACT, a national nonprofit organization that brings together children with chronic illnesses and university athletic programs.
The SJA beginner running club, for students in pre-kindergarten to third grade, was invited to compete at the May 3 track meet to encourage Angelo and his teammates, according to Team IMPACT track representative Julia Reicin. The club worked out with the Maryland track and field team on April 30 for a pre-meet shakeout. The athletes practiced their running and jumping, and even threw a small javelin for the first time, according to Angelo’s mother, Monica Serrano, who helped pioneer the SJA club in the spring of 2018.
“It is very exciting for our team to have the opportunity to combine both of his communities into one. Team IMPACT is about creating a community for a child that may have missed experiences with their own peers due to doctor’s appointments, hospital visits, etc.,” said Reicin.
For the May 3 track meet, SJA student runners were grouped by age. The 4- and 5-year-olds ran the 100-meter dash. Older students competed in one of the 400-meter dash sections: the first for 5-and-6-year-olds, the second for 7- through 9-year-olds.
In the first race, five athletes bolted down the 100-meter straightaway. Running in an official Maryland jersey, 5-year-old Angelo won the race, just ahead of his SJA teammates.
Following the 100-meter dash, the older SJA runners sprinted around the track one time in the 400-meter dash. Taking the gold: 5-year-old Caitlyn Jochum and 8-year-old Andrew Stinson crossed the finish line first in their respective age groups, encouraging a competitive race among some of the runners who were still on the track.
“I always tell them during our [practices] that in order to get better, they have to stay committed,” said Serrano.“Even when they are challenged, keep working on their goals.”
While Angelo’s three-year treatment is drawing to a close, he is still receiving chemo and is in and out of the hospital. According to his mother, the process used to make Angelo lethargic and unmotivated — that is, until he started with the SJA running club and Team IMPACT.
On May 3, however, no one would ever guess the fleet-footed 5-year-old was in the hospital just weeks before. Angelo led the pack from the moment the honorary starter, Dr. Nicholas Hadley, chair of UMD’s athletic council, said “Go!”
“We want Angelo to feel confident that we are behind him in his everyday endeavors,” Reicin said. “Our team loved getting to see Angelo interact with his teammates and being introduced to his friends.”