It was Emma Krasovich’s first day of high school, and she was hiding.
She wasn’t eluding bullies or zombies or a big bad wolf.
Krasovich and fellow freshman Veronica McBride couldn’t muster the courage to attend their first Agoura High cross country practice. They hid behind the ticket booth at Charger Stadium.
Some girls averaged six miles per day. Krasovich could barely run one mile.
“I remember thinking, ‘This is going to be so hard,’” Krasovich said.
Erin Baird, a senior captain at the time, found Krasovich and McBride. She coaxed the rookies to practice.
Today, Krasovich is a senior captain with the Chargers. She doesn’t have any reason to hide. In fact, teammates know her as their fearless leader.
Krasovich has lupus, a disease that weakens the immune system. Lupus causes inflammation, swelling, pain and, in extreme cases, tissue damage.
Her symptoms tend to flare up when Krasovich spends too much time in the sun.
The Charger keeps running hard. And she doesn’t complain.
“She is very enthusiastic. And she doesn’t make excuses,” said Cathy Prater, Agoura’s girls’ head coach. “She’s a competitor. She could use her health problems to miss school or practices, but she doesn’t.
“As a freshman, I would have bet money against her being a varsity athlete. The thing about cross country is someone’s work ethic can pay off more than talent.”
Teammates are also impressed.
“Emma absolutely astonishes me each day,” said Brooke Hamilton, a fellow senior captain.
“I bet half the team doesn’t know anything’s wrong with her. She doesn’t let that be her excuse. She doesn’t let it stop her.”
Sasha Herbst, a senior who’s also a setter in volleyball and hurdler in track, agreed with Hamilton.
“She has an amazing spirit,” Herbst said of Krasovich. “She’s so strong. I can’t believe what she deals with, and she’s out here every day. She’s my idol and one of my best friends. She pushes herself and she refuses to give up.”
Krasovich, 17, was diagnosed with lupus in January.
Her lupus medication made her sluggish. She became worn out. Her muscles degenerated. As a result, she struggled in track this spring.
“I didn’t know if I was running bad or if it was a mental thing or if my body couldn’t do it,” the Charger said.
Earlier this cross country season, she finished races three minutes slower than average.
Three weeks ago, Krasovich went off her medication. She’s running faster again—she’s back in the 21-minute range.
“I hate taking medicine, it’s the worst,” she said. “I know what my body’s limits are when I don’t take it. When I take the medicine, it’s like I don’t know myself anymore.”
There have, however, been side effects.
Her hair falls out and she gets rashes, like the ones she got on her legs after Monday’s practice.
When she first contracted the disease, she had a rapid heartbeat and trouble breathing.
The senior also avoids gluten, which means she has to give up most bread and pasta, staples of a long-distance runner’s diet.
Life isn’t perfect. But that’s okay. She is grateful things aren’t worse.
“I can deal with this. I have a friend with Ewing’s sarcoma, bone cancer,” Krasovich said. “You don’t know you can do something until you do it. I just have to deal with (lupus) mentally. If I tell myself I can do something, I can.”
Krasovich, who grew up playing soccer, stuck with cross country despite struggling as a freshman.
Her hard work translated into a starting spot in the varsity lineup by her junior year.
She completed the Ventura County Championships course at Lake Casitas in a career-best 20 minutes, 42 seconds last October.
She fondly recalled dressing up as a wind-up doll the day of the race, which fell near Halloween.
Krasovich wants to get her times under 21 minutes. At this point, she wants to do whatever she can to help her team.
“I would love for us to go to state as a team,” she said. “Two years ago, Agoura went. I would love to do it, even if I’m an alternate. I just want us to go.”
Krasovich is a well-rounded person and student.
She bakes cakes and cookies for her friends. She baked a sixlayer rainbow cake for her brother Shayne’s 16th birthday. Shayne Krasovich runs cross country and competes in track and soccer.
The 17-year-old writes elaborate notes and constructs clever scavenger hunts for her friends’ birthdays.
She helped build a home in Tennessee for Habitat for Humanity. She also volunteers at the Westminster Free Clinic in Thousand Oaks, helping sick patients who lack health insurance.
The Charger also started a ski club at Agoura High.
Krasovich carries a 4.4 gradepoint average and takes honors courses in calculus, physics and English. She wants to double major in pre-medicine and international relations in college.
The other Chargers take notice when Krasovich runs. For Hamilton, watching her friend race is a moving experience.
“In a few races, she would start in the back and by the middle of the race, she’d be moving her way up the pack,” Hamilton said. “It would give me chills.
“I love watching her race. When she has a good race, it is beautiful to watch. It’s because of everything she goes through and because I’ve known her for years.
“I’ve seen her journey and hardships and all the effort she’s had to put into it. I love seeing her succeed because she deserves it.”