JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – As a young girl, Science Hill junior Sunny Eorgan couldn’t wait to lace up her cleats.

“Originally I was a soccer player all throughout elementary school,” she said.

But, her soccer-playing days came to an end in middle school.

“In seventh grade I had spinal fusion surgery,” she explained.

It’s not an easy thing for anyone to undertake, let alone a young teenager. The surgery, performed at Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was a succes. However, the road back had its challenges.

“Recovery was definitely difficult,” she recalled. “Just getting back into school was rough.”

Luckily Eorgan had a vast support network by her side.

“My parents, my friends, my family,” she said.

She got back in a groove in many aspects of her life, but at least for the time being, she couldn’t return to the pitch.

“I wasn’t allowed to do contact sports for a year – that’s how I got into running,” she said.

Cross country soon became her go-to sport – even after she was cleared for contact.

“It feels great, honestly,” she said. “It clears my mind.”

“I got better as time went on, but the thing that kept me going through it was definitely my friends and the community around me,” she added. “We have deep conversations, we have lots of laughs … it’s fun.”

Her first few seasons with the Toppers have been, in her own words, a roller coaster. But, with plenty more ups than downs.

“It’s a good feeling to see myself grow in something I didn’t think I would be growing in,” she said.

Eorgan has also taken up running the 1600 and 3200 meter events in track.

“It’s kind of the same as cross (country),” she said. “You still have the encouragement, the bonds and stuff like that.”

No matter the distance she’s running, she’s learned one thing, above all else, from the sport.

“When life doesn’t go your way – just find the positive,” she said. “That’s what I’ve learned from cross country and track, because, man, you’re not going to have great races all the time. You’ve just got to find the positive in that.”

In her spare time, Eorgan is active in her church – and active as a fundraiser for Shriner’s Hospital for Children.

“I just want to give back to those who have helped me along my journey and to help other kids and their needs,” she said.

After high school she hopes to continue running in college, and study occupational therapy.

“To help other kids, you know, get through it.”