Coming from a sports-oriented family, it is no surprise that sophomore Kai Marroquin is involved in several sports: cross country, soccer, and track and field. Her main source of motivation comes from her mom. Since her mom was an athlete herself, she encouraged Marroquin to be involved in sports at a young age.
“My mom was involved in many different sports, from cross to soccer to track and so on, but her main thing was running distance,” Marroquin said. “She wanted to open me to sports that I may like, so she introduced me to soccer and track.”
However, being born with hemifacial microsomia, a congenital condition in which the tissues on one side of the face are underdeveloped, Marroquin struggled with her relationships with sports because of this birth defect.
“I was born with three balls in my cheek,” Marroquin said. “It would swell my cheek and pop out a lot, after some time it got worse to the point where it went all the way down to my neck.”,
In third grade, Marroquin underwent surgery for the birth defect and was out of school for two weeks with a cast on her head. In order to recover, Marroquin was advised by her doctor to not participate in any physical activities for two months.
“I have been involved in sports since I was six, so it was hard to not play soccer or run track for such a long period of time,” Marroquin said.
Despite following her doctor’s suggestions, Marroquin’s condition did not improve. She even developed a fear of the soccer ball after returning to the sport. The thought of being hit by the ball and worsening her condition caused her to be cautious of her surroundings.
“My mom knows how serious I am about my athletics and not being able to [perform] the way I used to was devastating for both of us,” Marroquin said. “In order to get back to the way I used to be, my mom pays for me to get extra training and even helps me train so that I could gradually recover.”
Despite the surgery failing, Marroquin has learned to cope with hemifacial microsomia.
“I can’t really have my head or my face facing downwards because it will get bigger again,” Marroquin said. “Since it’s really sensitive, I tend to exclude myself from activities that would trigger the swelling.”
Yet, Marroquin does not let her birth defect prevent her from performing to the utmost of her abilities. She is currently in the highest league in her soccer club and even competed in CIF prelims in track and field last year.