SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — She represented the State of Iowa at the national competition in Orlando, Florida this month and she has a message for anyone looking to try a new sport. Meet this Sioux City athlete in this week’s Siouxland Story.

Abigail Cvrk started running in high school and she hasn’t stopped since. In order to appreciate how far she’s come, it helps to know that she entered the world with the odds stacked against her while developing her fighting spirit as an infant.

“She went into heart failure she when was just four months old,” said Abigail’s mom, Anne. “They knew when she was born, she had a couple of holes in her heart, but they felt like they were going to repair themselves. She ended up here in the hospital on the ventilator for a week, and they ended up having to airlift her to Omaha. They didn’t expect her to make it from here to Omaha in the helicopter.”

“My mom, she helped me also, when I got open-heart surgery when I got sicker again and sicker. I love her because she fed me bottles and she’d hold me,” said Abigail. “She’s very beautiful, my mom, I love her.”

She made it through two heart surgeries and multiple throat surgeries, working to get stronger day by day, year after year.

“I love training and running more because then I work out again. I do pushups and then do that. I bike a little bit,” Abigail said.

She became skilled in tae kwon do, running, and shot put which brings us to the Special Olympics. Abigail qualified to compete in multiple events on the national stage.

“It’s like tae kwon do, then you push off and step to it and it’s easy!” said Abigail. “I like to run. My favorite 100-meter running.”

A race she medaled during the Special Olympics down in Orlando from June 6 through June 10, earning 6th place in the 200-meter dash, 5th in the 100-meter dash, and 5th in shot put.

“It was such a cool opportunity to go down there and watch the kids get their medals,” Anne said.

Anne said the experience of watching her daughter was unforgettable for her too.

“When she’s running and to get to see her do that and she got up on the medal stand and all the kids are so excited and they’re congratulating each other,” said Anne. “To go from not knowing if she was going to live at four months old and not knowing what to expect her life would be like. To see her being able to be a normal kid and participate in all of the normal things is really great. It’s refreshing. I know times have changed a lot since I was in high school and how kids with special needs are treated. I’m really grateful that it has because she has lots and lots of opportunities.”

Anne said the opportunity was made possible in part by the support from the Siouxland community.

“There were several places here in town that donated money for the kids to go,” Anne said. “I’m just really grateful for all of that because the expense would have just been too much for families.”

Families who got to take a break from the competition and visit a handful of theme parks, including Star Wars: Galey’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

“It was good, I saw Dearth Vader, Luke, and baby Yoda.”

Upon their return home, Sioux City leaders gave the athletes another chance to shine.

“They’ve asked the kids to come to the city council meeting so they recognize them,” said Anne. “It just makes you smile, it’s the coolest thing to watch.”

“The thing about Special Olympics is that it’s not just for kids that are special needs. There are unified partners that participate.”

This means anyone can make a difference with the organization by helping out with events that they’re passionate about. If you’d like to get involved they have a Facebook page and more information is available on their website.