Indiana teen went from orphan in Ethiopia to leading US cross country high school athlete

Hometown Heroes

ANGOLA, Ind. (WANE) — With the help of his coach, an unmatched determination and the time to test limits during stay-at-home orders earlier this year, Angola High School junior, Izaiah Steury has emerged as one of the nation’s best high school distance runners.

“The angle we took was, the more miles he could put in March through July, the better he’s going to have a peak for state for cross-country,” Coach Peterson said.

“(Coach) told me if you push yourself, you can really do something great and I followed his plan and it seems to be working so I’m really excited to see where that’s going to go,” Steury said.

Steury named MileSplit National Runner of the Week, USA’s Track and Field Runner of the Month for August and even broke national records for times at races. What Steury’s been able to accomplish just in his third-year of high school is remarkable.

“The accolades, it’s hard to keep up with, and the times, he just keeps breaking school records every time he goes out there it seems like,” Coach Peterson said.

“I mean it’s awesome, I’m happy I’m doing great, but I’m not satisfied, I just want to do better and improve,” Steury said.

While Steury might reap the benefits of the sport he loves now, his story begins in Ethiopia with a childhood of one hardship after another.

“When my mother was still alive, it was great, really awesome, I was treated with the best and respect, but after that everything did change,” Steury said.

Born in a small countryside village in Ethiopia, Steury’s biological dad left him at birth and his mom died unexpectedly which left him without a family in search of a place to call home, so he tried to live with his stepfather.

“I wasn’t very respected, because I wasn’t his own child, and so I was nothing basically,” Steury said.

For a while, Stuery bounced around from relative to relative, at some point getting mistreated or beaten every where he went.

“It was just an awful time, I’ve cried so much, I can’t even cry anymore,” Steury said.

Steury eventually found his way back to his sister’s house and it was there that they decided the best place for him would be an orphanage.

“My sister put me in a great place to be and now I’m really here,” Steury said.

The question still remains, how did he wind up over 7,500 miles away from Ethiopia, in a small town in northeast Indiana? That’s where the Steury’s of Angola come in.

“Everyone wants to adopt the little babies and so they had these older orphans they wanted to try to get put into homes,” Steury’s mom, Tammy said.

Leroy and Tammy Steury decided to give it a shot, first hosting Izaiah for four weeks under the strict condition that adoption was not to be mentioned.

“In case something came up between then and the adoption process completing, they didn’t want us to say anything to them about adoption, but he called us mom and dad,” Tammy Steury said.

Moving into a new country while learning a new language, there was reason to be nervous, but Izaiah was just happy someone wanted love him as much as he wanted to be loved.

“The translator in Ethiopia told us he kept asking, ‘when is mom and dad coming back to get me, when is mom and dad coming back to get me so’ when the translator came and picked us up at the airport he said ‘Izaiah’s been waiting for you for a long time,’” Tammy said.

“It’s just been quite a journey for me and God has been there for me, even at my lowest point he was there and right now he’s been there,” Steury said.

“God has blessed us because Izaiah truly has been a gift,” Tammy Steury said.

Steury, given plenty of reason to put his life in Ethiopia in the past, but instead the runner embraces his culture.

“I don’t want to forget my childhood because that’s what brought me to be here today and without my childhood I wouldn’t be who I am today because I wouldn’t be as strong or motivated,” Steury said.

“He works the hardest, he’s mentally tough. I’ve never seen anything like it, he’s been a dream to coach,” Coach Peterson said.

Since a young shepherd in Ethiopia, Steury always dreamed big so it’s no surprise as to where he wants his running career to take him.

“My dream is to someday be an Olympian,” Steury said.

“Do I think we’ll see him someday on television running in the Olympics? I do. In his late 20s as long as he stays motivated and keeps that same incredible personality he has now and love for the sport of running,” Coach Peterson said.

In the marathon of life, Steury’s is keeping great pace.

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