Connetquot High School athlete wins college scholarship after battling Leukemia

BOHEMIA, Suffolk County (WABC) -- Marina Duszak received a $20,000 Foot Locker Foundation college scholarship as one of 20 student athletes chosen from a pool of more than 13,000 applicants nationwide.

The 18-year-old senior at Connetquot High School is a star athlete, an honors student and also a cancer survivor.

"Without running, I don't know where I'd be today," Duszak said. "It definitely saved my life."

Duszak always manages to find the positive each and every day, even when she's had to look harder than most, according to her coaches.

At age 14, the start of high school, Marina was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. She needed two and a half years of chemotherapy.

Exactly one year after her diagnosis, Duszak's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now, both are recovering just fine.

"I just want to show people that no matter how hard life gets, just to never give up, to always keep going," Duszak said.

She did just that, raising a total of $40,000 for cancer groups. But all the while, her running was her motivation.

On May 2 in Manhattan, her parents walked her into a Foot Locker, where a giant check awaited her.
"If anybody deserves it, it's her," Marina's mom Patty Duszak said. "She really brought cancer to a different level."

Despite her illness, Marina barely missed any school. In fact, she barely missed practice, or a track/cross country meet.

Her coaches said that Marina was winning long before this.

"She actually qualified for our state qualifier meet," said Michael Austin, the cross country coach at Connetquot High School. "She was a member of the top seven of our varsity team."

Marina plans to attend St. John's University in the fall and hopes to have a career in health care. Her track coach, Jim Crowley, thinks that's a perfect fit, given all she has taught her teammates.

"She's taught them how to overcome," Crowley said.

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