Athlete of the Week: Ashley Ridge's Jackson Ellenburg
SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCIV) -- Jackson Ellenburg is one of the top runners in the country for his age group, but his biggest battle came at the age of 3.
The perseverance early in life through aggressive, life-threatening cancer and dominance on the track makes Ashley Ridge High School's Ellenburg the ABC News 4 Athlete of the Week.
"It's a big part of the beginning of my story, but I think there's a lot more," he said.
Ellenburg's story starts where it very easily could have ended. Then just 3 years old, he was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of Stage 3 Burkitt's Lymphoma.
He underwent five months of intensive inpatient chemotherapy, countless blood transfusions and even more sleepless nights. His family basically lived at Medical University Hospital.
"It was difficult but I knew in my heart he'd be OK. I don't know why but I knew. But there was a time when I just wanted him to be around for one more boat ride. And now today when I see him cross the finish line and see him doing so well, it's just a bit sweeter," said his mom, Pat Ellenburg.
Even though he was just a small child, the experience did not tarnish his outlook on the rest of his life.
"I had it when I was 3 and 4. It didn't affect me too much, but I got a lot out of it. Most people wouldn't think of cancer as a positive thing, but in my life it kind of was," said Jackson Elleburg.
Just more than ten years after kicking cancer, Elleburg is in another class of his own, an elite level runner ranked in the top 100 of the country for his age group.
"I don't know where Jackson will reach his peak. Since he was a seventh grader he's dropped his times by a minute each year. That's significant," said his running coach Christine Evans.
"I never really knew. I just know there's something I'm supposed to do. And I'm trying to get there," said Ellenburg.
Ellenburg is running with a purpose. He's not running from his past, but towards his future, towards a goal -- towards the ultimate finish line.
"That's just part of his past. He's just ready to move forward and be the best he can be," said Evans.
"We were just hoping he'd live. We didn't care how he did athletically, academically, we just wanted him to live. Whatever happened next is just icing on the cake," said his mom.
"Whenever you get on the line at a meet, sometimes it's in the back of your mind, but when the gun goes off, it all goes away. The only thing you think about is 'I'm in front.' And that helps. It's positive," the track star said..
He built a positive out of a negative. There's not a dark cloud, just sunny skies above Ellenburg as he makes a run at something great.