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“To say that I’m even in college is a dream.”

Today, two-thirds of young Americans go on to attend college, so why does something so common feel surreal for Edgewood College distance runner Natasha Zanoya? Because she weighed only 1 pound when she was born 14 weeks too soon. Because she spent the first five years of her life 350 miles east of Moscow in an orphanage where splashes of color on carpet and cabinets contrasted with the gloom beyond the walls. Because of the learning disabilities and dyslexia that were byproducts of being born so early. Adoptive parents took her to the other side of the world and gave her tutoring,
gymnastics lessons and love.

So, improbably, the dream of college became real. So, improbably, she dreamed bigger. In October, the junior business management major captured the individual title at the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference Cross Country Championships. Having climbed so far, what is left to dream? Zanoya hopes to one day meet her biological mother.

“It would fill the hole in my heart,” she says.

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.