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SPORTS & RECREATION

JANUARY 16, 2013 • NORTHWEST PRESS • A7

La Salle’s McNamara rises above illness By Gene Jessee Press correspondent

After a four-year struggle, Jake McNamara became the best runner on La Salle’s cross country team, qualifying for the regionals. The road was long and full of challenges. Jake is a 17-year-old senior from St Vivian’s parish. He started his running career in the seventh grade. Because St. Vivian did not have a cross country team, Jake ran for Sacred Heart and became their top runner. Cross country coach Frank Russo commented on his first impression of Jake, “He made an impression on me back in eighth grade. He came up; we were running in the summer. He was this tiny, little, blondhaired, eighth-grader who jumped out on our guys (was the leader in workouts) and led from beginning to end, against a very talented group. So, I knew he had some talent. He went right out and pushed the pace. He was very competitive and made a first and lasting impression on me. He embodied what our program is all about; which is hard work, consistency at practice, intensity at practice,

and competitive spirit on race day.” He started getting sick in the seventh grade He has a rare illness called neuro-behcets. In the seventh grade, his first symptoms were uncontrollable leg shaking, blurred vision, double vision, failure to be able to open his eyelids and short-term memory loss. At first, doctors thought he had a brain tumor or multiple sclerosis. He also has neutropenia, which is a low white blood cell count, causing him to get sick a lot easier. When he came to La Salle his legs got better. Usually his symptoms lasted a couple of months and then they would go away. He would be healthy, for a period, and then another symptom would develop. Jake’s sophomore year, he couldn’t open his eyelids for a few weeks. He had students take his arms and guide him from classroom to classroom. He eventually had to take off a few weeks. During this time, McNamara was also diagnosed with beriberi, which is caused by a vitamin B1 deficiency. Because of his physical problems, Jake couldn’t run the first half of his sophomore, cross

country season, after making the varsity his freshman year. In the state finals, as a ninthgrader, he had the fifth best time on the varsity. He ended up sophomore year the eighth best on the varsity. He was able to run on the track team sophomore year, making it to regionals in the two-mile race, and was a member of the state championship team. Junior year, outside of problems with his vision, he stayed healthy, figuring out what he needed. For cross country, he was third in the GCL and was able to make it to the regional meet. His long-term diagnosis is he will always have neuro-behcets, neutropenia and beriberi. He can control them with medication. There is no known cause or cure for neuro-behcets “He’s had a tremendous career given the physical challenges he has had to deal with. He has never complained. If he has a bad day (physically) he is always back the next day. He has never used (his physical condition) as a crutch or an excuse. It shows you the kind of character and focus he has had through his four years,” said Russo.

Mount Healthy sophomore Chauncey Dunigan goes baseline to get around his defender during the Owls’ home game against Northwest Jan. 11. Dunigan finished with six points and three rebounds in the Owls’ loss. TOM SKEEN/THE COMMUNITY PRESS

Owls get Knighted After leading the majority of the contest, Mount Healthy wasn’t able to hold off Northwest as the Knights were victorious on the road 58-56, Jan. 11. Darius Hubbard’s layup with one second remaining gave Northwest the victory.

SIDELINES La Salle welcomes Davis

Cincinnati Reds Hall-of-Famer Eric Davis, 1990 World Series champion, two-time All Star and three-time Gold Glove winner, headlines the 29th annual La Salle High School Sports Stag Wednesday, Jan. 23. The master of ceremonies will be Dan Hoard, radio voice of the Cincinnati

Bengals and University of Cincinnati Bearcats football and basketball teams. Professional athletes and college coaches from a variety of sports attend the stag. The stag takes place at La Salle High School, 3091 North Bend Road. Only 250 participants may purchase VIP tickets to attend a celebrity reception with hors d’oeuvres and drinks before dinner. The

VIP reception begins at 5:30 p.m. Other participants may purchase general admission tickets. Dinner begins at 7 p.m. Information is available by calling La Salle at 741-2687. La Salle will honor its newest Hall of Fame inductees at the stag. This will be the third year for La Salle’s Cornerstone Awards, presented to individuals who have supported La Salle athletics.

Mount Healthy senior Larod Johnson goes past his defender and up for two against Northwest Jan. 11 at Mount Healthy. Johnson scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds. TOM SKEEN/THE COMMUNITY PRESS

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