PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — This week’s Scholar Athlete of the Week sponsored by Perry and Young P.A. is Rutherford’s Ariel Cross.

Cross is the team captain on the Rutherford volleyball team, which is a role she stepped into this year.

She has been a member of the varsity team since her sophomore year, and hopes she can continue her career in college.

But her journey playing this sport hasn’t always been easy.

Cross was diagnosed at three months old with a heart condition that required her to live with a stent to operate the lower portion of her heart, which restricted her from certain activities as a kid.

“It was really tough because I couldn’t play with some kids because they would be running around and it was hard for me because I got tired really really quick and whenever I was younger I was a dancer,” Cross said. “I couldn’t do back bends and stuff like that on the stage because it would pull out my lead and cause one to break. That was really frustrating for me. I couldn’t really do backflips or anything because I want to, but it’s just like certain stuff that I have to limit myself to because of my pacemaker.”

Last offseason, Cross had a surgery to replace her pacemaker, which forced her to take some time away from her sport to heal.

“After I came out of my surgery I was not allowed to lift my arm, my left one actually for two months and it was tough because going into conditioning I was still not participating, but eager,” Cross said. “It’s just like one wrong move and I can’t play at all, so it was devastating and very concerning.”

After a short recovery period she is back and ready to play one final season as a Ram.

Cross has not decided where she will start her next chapter, but as of right now her aspirations are to be a veterinarian because of her love for animals and her drive to help others.

“To see that because it encourages us as teachers and coaches to see that these kids are making a difference in their community and that they’re encouraging others to do the same,” Head Coach, Cecila Forero said.

She holds a 3.5 GPA, and is involved in several clubs, on top of that she also has a job, which she said it can be hard to manage everything but she is capable of doing it all.