It's impressive when an athlete earns the honor of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) All-American, one of the biggest accomplishments in college sports. It's an even bigger deal when the honor is given to three athletes in the same family.
Utah triplets Sage, Davin and Creed Thompson have achieved such a feat. And they've done it while facing tragedy.
The triplets were 11 years old when their father, Bryce, died of leukemia in 2014.
Bryce never smoked or drank, and he exercised regularly. He also ate a mostly plant-based, organic diet. But Bryce’s cancer diagnosis didn’t come as a surprise to his wife, Jenni Thompson.
“He always said that he felt like a ticking time bomb,” Jenni, 43, tells TODAY.com.
The Thompsons are plagued with a rare hereditary condition called Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (LFS) that increases the risk of developing multiple cancers, often at an early age.
Individuals with LFS have a roughly 50% chance of developing cancer before age 30, and up to a 90% chance by 60, according to the National Library of Medicine.
Sage, Davin and Creed, now 19, were born through preimplantation genetic diagnosis, a procedure used with in vitro fertilization (IVF) to reduce the risk of passing on inherited medical disorders.
The siblings did inherit all the good stuff, including their father’s love of athletics. This year, the Thompson triplets each received NCAA Division I All-American honors in their respective sports.
Sage, a gymnast at the University of Utah, was recognized for her accomplishments on the uneven bars. Davin and Creed received top honors as cross country runners at Brigham Young University.
“I know Bryce would be so proud of them,” Jenni, 43, says. “It was so important to him that they continue living their lives and doing what they loved.”
Jenni, a hair stylist in Lehi, Utah, recalls visiting with Bryce in the hospital on one of the last days that he was still conscious
“I made him a promise that I would still get out of bed and make sure they kept doing their sports. We weren't going to slip into a vortex of despair," she reveals.
Even when Jenni was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 — her cancer is in remission — she continued shuttling her kids to practice. Jenni and Bryce also share 21-year-old son, Kade, a wrestler-turned-snowboarder.
"My mother made so many sacrifices for us," Sage tells TODAY.com. "When she was sick, she was all about us and making sure we were OK, and we'd be like, "No, no, no. Let us take care of you.'"
Sage says she is forever grateful that Jenni kept her promise to Bryce. Those 6 a.m. gymnastics practices provided a distraction and escape from her grief. She also felt lifted by her coaches and teammates.
"It got me through the saddest time in my life," she says. "It pushed me to keep going."
In high school, every time Creed Thompson won a race, he paid homage to their dad by raising a finger to the sky.
“There’s definitely been moments where I know he’s there watching me and smiling,” Sage says. “And I know my brothers feel the same way.”
This article was originally published on TODAY.com