The camaraderie was evident at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s regular Tuesday afternoon track practice, where Evan Kristal warmed up with his teammates. The quietly outgoing and composed senior is a recipient of this year’s Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association Frank Kelley Adversity Award, recognizing student athletes who have overcome diverse hardships, including physical and mental disabilities, to successfully compete at the high school level.

Evan faced severe developmental challenges as a young child. At age three and a half he was diagnosed with Doose Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that caused him to have 50 to 60 seizures per day. Treatment by medication was inconsistent and largely ineffective, which led doctors and parents to experiment with his diet. At age six, he was placed on a regulated, ketogenic diet. It was high in fat, excluded carbohydrates and sugar, and everything consumed was measured and weighed to control caloric intake. Within four days of changing his eating habits, Evan’s seizures had ceased almost completely. Within six months, he was weaned off his medication, while continuing on the diet. He remained on the diet for three and a half years and then returned to a regular diet. He has been seizure free ever since.

In spite of or perhaps because of the challenges he faced early in life, Evan developed a strength of character that has led him make literal and figurative strides in running and in life. His efforts are being recognized in the Frank Kelley award, for which he was nominated by longtime high school track coach Joe Schroeder. “Evan has grown from someone who was extremely shy and intimidated by track his first year to being able to dive in and tackle just about any challenge he faces,” the coach said this week. Both Evan and his parents acknowledged the risks associated with running track — entering new and uncharted territory can trigger seizures but the uncertainty didn’t jostle the young athlete. He has competed in distance events for three years now; the one-mile race is his most competitive event.

Evan’s father and mother Jeff and Jynell Kristal run The Crocker House Inn in Vineyard Haven. Mr. Kristal recalled that when Evan tried out for basketball his freshman year and didn’t make the team, he told his father that “he had no game.” But he didn’t wallow in disappointment, and the following year, he tried out for the track and cross country team. “I really wanted to wear my school’s colors so I thought even though I don’t like running I think that’s the only sport I’ll be able to get on the team,” Evan said. “So I tried running, and now I like it.” He now runs a 5 minute, 44-second mile, and will attend Mitchell College in New London, Conn., in the fall, a goal he’s been working toward since his freshman year. He attributes his academic and athletic success to having to surmount obstacles early in life through hard work and self-imposed discipline. “When I was younger with the seizures it made me fight harder and be stronger and now I have it in me to just keep going. I’m determined to overcome challenges. I know that it’s up to me to determine what will or what won’t happen in my life,” he said.

The Frank Kelley Adversity Award honors the retired coach it is named after, who had tuberculosis as a child as well as clubfoot, neither of which deterred him from pursuing his passion of coaching. It has been awarded by the state track coaches association for 15 years in a row. Coaches nominate worthy candidates whose submissions are then reviewed by an executive board. Twelve student athletes have been selected this year, all of whom will be honored at an awards dinner on June 7. Jim Hoar, the award committee chairman, praised Evan and other recipients of this year’s award. They include an athlete who suffered an aneurism and returned to running within the season, and a pair of sisters whose mother died of breast cancer. “It’s amazing when you read their stories what these kids have overcome. They go to school every day and compete at the high school or state level after going through tremendous difficulty,” Mr. Hoar said.