Durham County

8-year-old ‘drafted’ to UNC cross-country team

Yash Krishnan, 8, is part of the University of Chapel Hill cross-country team.

UNC-CH and Team IMPACT held an official Draft Day press conference for the 8-year-old at the Eddie Smith Field House last week.

Yash has a rare condition that makes him more likely to develop certain cancers, Biallelic Mismatch Repair Deficiency, and has been in and out of hospitals for the past year for treatment of symptoms caused by the syndrome.

Team IMPACT is a nonprofit based in Boston, founded by Tufts University alumni and student athletes, with a mission to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses.

Yash will attend cross-country team practices, meets and events.

“We are so fortunate to have been able to participate in this event,” said UNC cross-country Head Coach Mark VanAlystyne. “A lot of of are saying this is a way to give back. But, we get as much as we give.”

Last September UNC Athletics and Team IMPACT introduced Yash to former UNC basketball standout player Eric Montross.

“He met Eric and they hit it off,” Yash's mother, Parvathy Krishnan, said. “He got down on Yash's level and they talked like friends. He loves sports. It meant so much to him. In the hospital we had ESPN on all day. Yash was wagering with nurses about if UNC would win it all.”

The second time Yash and Montross met, Montross brought a friend, UNC basketball player Luke Maye.

Yahs's mother said not a week has gone by since late November 2016 that Montross and Maye haven't checked in on the family to inquire how they were doing and to talk to Yash.

The day after Maye hit the buzzer-beating shot to put UNC into the Final Four and himself into the spotlight, he woke up and went to an 8 a.m. class. After class, Maye met Yash and his mother on Franklin street to grab lunch at Sandwhich restaurant and tell Yash all about beating Kentucky.

With the cross-country team, “the runners have really been the point persons for setting up the Draft Day,” VanAlystyne said.

UNC freshman student and cross-country runner Mady Clahane wanted “to do something” for pediatric cancer patients at UNC's Children's Hospital, she said, so she approached her teammates with her idea.

The Athletic Department communicated with the hospital. Clahane met Team IMPACT members and then met Yash.

“He's a really talkative kid,” Clahane said.

Yash made a speech at Draft Day.

“He was really nervous and asked his mom 'Can I show Mady my speech?'” Clahane said. “He also wanted other things. He's really funny. I like him a lot. Everybody likes him. Like, he wanted a new blazer to wear and he wanted...well...”

Yash wanted a cake covered in Skittles.

“We got him the cake but,” Clahane said. “We just gave him a big scoop of Skittles from a big jar Coach keeps in his office.”

During his speech Yash said his 3-year-old little sister, who also suffers severe health problems, was his inspiration.

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks