In the thick of the September heat wave, the Corona del Mar’s (CdM) Cross Country team competed in their first meet of the year. They sustained painful wind sprints in the hot, arid sun all summer. Three months of hard work and discipline culminated in a single moment.
One particular runner, junior Ivara Roth, had waited even longer. She was more than happy to have the wind at her back.
The summer before her sophomore year, Roth had surgery to correct scoliosis, a spinal condition “where instead of your spine being all nice and straight it grows all wonky, usually making an ‘S’ sort of shape,” Roth explained.
Roth said that scoliosis is not painful, “but the muscles in your back will develop unevenly to compensate for the stress it puts on all your other bones,” she explained.
It may not be painful, but scoliosis is certainly common. So common, in fact, that all CdM students receive scoliosis screenings in eighth and tenth grades. It was at one of these routine screenings that Roth discovered she had scoliosis.
To realign the spine, doctors fuse together a few of the vertebrae to help prevent further movement, and then anchor metal rods to the spine, which corrects the movement that’s already happened.
Roth was quick to simplify.
“You basically become like Wolverine in real life,” she said.
It took a full year after the operation before Roth could continue her superhuman feats on the track. Roth said the go-ahead to start running again could not come soon enough.
“I was so happy when I was told I could start doing things like running again,” she said. “It was frustrating not being able to really do much for quite a while but it was super satisfying to be able to exercise again. It was hard to slowly work those little laps up but by the end of school last year I was running one to two miles a day around my neighborhood and feeling great.”
In the opening track meet, all that hard work paid off. Roth clocked three miles in 26:53. It’s still a far cry from her 24-minute goal this year, (that’s an 8-minute mile), but Roth remains undaunted.
“I’m not very fast yet,” she conceded. “But just you wait.”
Roth’s fellow runners and classmates have been with her every step of the way.
“We just keep pushing each other and convincing everyone else to keep going. We have really awesome coaches and a great environment at track,” Roth said.
Her teammates feel the same way about her.
“Ivara showed up every morning this summer to run her heart out,” said junior Haley Cohen.
Roth’s passion for running is evident even to non-runners like her classmate Rebecca Shedd.
“It’s very inspirational that Ivara is coming back to cross-country after her injury. It just shows you how hard she’s worked and how dedicated she is to her sport,” Shedd said.
Roth just wants to keep running through her senior year and beyond.
“My sister runs marathons, and I want to be able to do that with her one day,” she said.
She has come back from a fairly common condition with uncommon tenacity, but running is just one of the things on her list of extracurricular activities.
She also raises chickens as treasurer of her local 4-H Club chapter, involved with Youth and Government, Robotics club, and until her back surgery, rode horses regularly.
Roth has also found a way to combine community service and athletics. She serves as secretary of Cerebral Palsy in Motion. Started by Roth’s teammate, Paralympian Suzanne Arenal, the organization helps kids with special needs accomplish all their fitness goals.
Somehow, Roth still maintains a rigorous academic schedule which includes Advanced Placement courses in English, Biology, and Calculus.
Scholar, engineer, animal lover, and compassionate community member, Roth wants to one day add marathon runner to her list of accomplishments, there’s nothing holding her back—except a metal rod.