Many runners know that to perform their best, they need to run with heart. For Sofia Earle, however, this isn’t always possible.
Earle started running cross country at Lakeville North as an eighth-grader in 2012, but things changed in the middle of her freshman year when she found out she had Long Q-T Syndrome.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, LQTS is a “heart rhythm condition that can potentially cause fast, chaotic heartbeats.” These rapid heartbeats can lead to “sudden fainting spells or seizures.” LQTS can also be life-threatening if these fast, chaotic heartbeats continue for an extended period of time.
She now runs in fear of her heart shutting down and having to be revived.
Despite this condition, Earle remains a member of the cross country team and is set to be a senior captain in 2016.
Becoming a senior captain was the last thing on Earle’s mind at the Apple Valley cross country meet in 2013.
It was nothing new for Sofia Earle, another race, another start line, another tough course ahead of her. Earle started as a varsity team runner that year and had a lot of pressure riding on her as she was one of the younger runners on the team. That day she began running the hills the Apple Valley course had and she immediately knew something wasn’t right.
Earle said she thought to herself “this isn’t good” but continued to push through the race. She remembers struggling to finish the race and once she did it was pretty much lights out.
“I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see, or even open my eyes,” Earle said.
Earle was carried off the finish line by her mom, Shannon Earle. Shannon recalls seeing Sofia running to the finish line with a pale, drooping face.
“Every muscle in my body was dead,” Sofia Earle said.
Her mom also struggled to move out of uncertainty with what to do next.
“I was very frightened and didn’t know what was happening” Shannon Earle said.
Shannon and Sofia both remember the sight of Sofia’s chest visibly beating extremely fast.
“I could see my chest going up and down and it hurt really bad.” Earle said.
Late September of 2013, Earle saw multiple doctors and was finally referred to Amplatz Children’s Hospital and Nasseff Heart Center. She was seen six times and had to take a multitude of tests, which included an echocardiogram, a heart treadmill stress test and multiple blood pressure tests.
The doctors, however, couldn’t give her an immediate cure.
Her mom said Earle’s final diagnosis from the doctor was that “her willpower in her mind causes her to push herself beyond anaerobic threshold,” which is a syndrome called Neurocardiogenic presyncope.
For Earle this means she has to drink excessive fluids and increase her sodium intake to help her work as hard as she can. It is something she will have to grow out of.
Although she had to miss half of her freshman year season and her entire sophomore year, she returned at the end of her sophomore year for the track and field season.
Unfortunately for Earle, these “episodes” of nearly passing out and her muscles shutting down have happened four times. Some of these episodes came within her sophomore track season.
Her ability to persevere through these episodes has garnered the respect of her teammates.
Earle has been nominated for the “Heart of a Panther” award for three consecutive years, a team nominated award for hard work and dedication.
Danielle Bellino, one of Earle’s track and cross country teammates, said Sofia inspires her for how hard Earle works and “how she has been able to overcome many hardships and still give her all for every race and workout.”
Another teammate, Mary Grace describes Earle as “always having a good attitude and always working her hardest.”
Earle doesn’t know what the future holds for her and LQTS, but what she does know is that she will give her best out on the course and in life.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Earle said, “but I want to perform well.”