The Sheppard sisters are running sensations, but it's what the three young girls are running from that makes them extraordinary.
Tai, 12, Rainn, 11, and Brooke, 9, run hurdles, distance, and high jump, respectively.
When the girls’ half-brother was fatally shot, their family fell on hard times and was evicted from their home. They have lived in a homeless shelter in Brooklyn, New York’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood since September of 2015.
“We make the best of it by cleaning it a lot,” Tai said. “We also got rid of the insect problem.”
The three sisters and their mother, Tonia Hardy, live in a two-bedroom unit within the homeless shelter, sharing one bed between the four of them. Hardy, who works full-time, has been raising her girls alone for nearly 10 years.
“It was something that I never thought would happen,” she said of her family's homelessness.
Inspiring America: Dine and Do Good at Supper Club for Refugees
In spite of where they rest their heads, the sisters are now Junior Olympians. They initially found success with running after a babysitter, on a whim, signed them up for a track meet as a way to keep them occupied after school with an activity that didn't require fees.
Jean Bell, founder and coach of the Brooklyn-based Jeuness Track Club, was at their first competition, scouting for new talent. The sisters started practicing with her team, which consists of more than 30 young women who train and run together.
The staff of the track club predominantly consists of volunteers, and they stress education and mutual respect. The volunteers also try to make sure that each girl graduates from high school.
“We want them to run through the high school years and perhaps get an athletic scholarship so that their dream of going to college can be fulfilled,” Bell said.
The accolades keep rolling in for the Sheppard sisters. They were recently named Sport's Illustrated Kids' SportsKids of the Year, having beaten out thousands of others to win the title.
"That's what this track team has done for them: give them hope," said their mother, Tonia Hardy.
She has started a GoFundMe page to help pay for uniforms, club fees and travel expenses.
The girls credit running with changing their lives, and now that they are some of the brightest young track prospects in the country, their sights are set on gold.
“I really do want to be another greatest Olympian of all time,” Tai said.