LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The best middle school track runners across Kentucky went head-to-head Saturday for the state track meet, but one Bowling Green 6th grader beat the odds before even stepping up to the starting line. 

What You Need To Know

  • 6th grader Bree Sponhouse was born with two heart defects

  • Sponhouse had open heart surgery at age 4

  • Sponhouse competed in the middle school state track championship


That 6th grader is Bree Sponhouse, and from a very young age, she knew she was fast.

I was in P.E. and we were running in the gym and I beat the boys and I was like ‘Alright. I think I did pretty good’ and I was like ‘Anyone want to race at recess?’ and I won again,” Sponhouse said.

But running wasn’t something Sponhouse imagined she could do.

“She was the kid that had to stop and take breaks. She was taking numerous naps during the day which other kids her age were not doing and it was just because her heart had to work so hard,” Bree’s mom, Paula Renner, said.

Bree was born with two different heart defects: Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) and Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD).

“Depending on the size and location of these holes, symptoms that a patient experiences can be very wide range from really not many symptoms at, all the way up to children that have even in infancy with gaining weight or feeding poorly,” Dr. Lucinda Wright, pediatric cardiologist with Norton Children’s Medical Group said.

Bree’s medical team first tried the cardiac catheterization procedure, a less invasive process to patch the holes in Bree’s heart. When that procedure didn’t work, Bree had open heart surgery at 4 and is now living restriction free.

“In terms of excelling in any sport or physical activity, we never imagined that for her, never thought she would be one of the fastest kids in the state,” Renner said.

For Sponhouse and her family, that’s a miracle.

“I personally know a child that can’t do sports because of their surgery, I kind of feel lucky to be able to say that I can run and do all these physical activities,” Sponhouse said.

Now Sponhouse is among a few of the 6th graders competing at the state track meet, something she hopes inspires others living with the same heart defects.

“You can really do anything if you put your mind to it, you really can and this is the one thing I really devoted myself to, this track team and I think I’m going to stick with it for a while,” Sponhouse said.

Sponhouse competed in to 100 meter dash, 4x1 meter relay, and 4x2 meter relay at the middle school state track championship at Eastern High School on Saturday.