Despite health, Hoover senior keeps running

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I find this article very inspiring. And not only for those who have asthma. Jackie Delamater can be a role model for every person who is sick.

When Delamater crossed the line at the Strongsville Invitational in 19:58.85, it meant more than just a new personal record.

It meant beating asthma after a four-year struggle. It meant casting aside a month of doubt and worry caused by health problems. It meant overcoming childhood anxieties.

I invite you to read this long but very interesting story.

By Chris Beaven, REPOSITORY SPORTS, 20 Oct 2006

NORTH CANTON - A magic number appeared on the finish-line clock ahead of Jackie Delamater.

The Hoover High School senior could hardly believe her eyes as she ran the final straightway of the cross country course.

"I saw the clock said 19," she said, "and thought, 'Oh my gosh. I'm going to break 20 minutes.' I sprinted my heart out."

When Delamater crossed the line at the Strongsville Invitational in 19:58.85, it meant more than just a new personal record.

It meant beating asthma after a four-year struggle. It meant casting aside a month of doubt and worry caused by health problems. It meant overcoming childhood anxieties.

"My dad said he'll never forget the look on my face after the race," Delamater said.

With one race, she achieved one goal and put herself in position to attack another. She wants to help her Vikings reach the state meet, a journey that begins Saturday with district competition.

Hoover joins most of Stark County in competing at Malone College, which will host boys and girls races for Divisions I, II and III. Races begin in the morning at 11:05. Delamater competes in the final race, girls Division I, at 2:50 p.m.

LEADER AND ROLE MODEL

"I want to break my 19:58," Delamater said. "I really want to run around 19:30. I'm really motivated. Hopefully I'll have three more races to do it."

Her coach does not rule out Delamater attaining any of her goals. The homecoming queen, she maintains a GPA near 4.0 and through the encouragement of her boyfriend, Chad Coyle, she incorporates boxing into her training regimen.

"I've coached Jackie since the seventh grade, and I taught her in the sixth grade," Hoover girls cross country coach Jason Kirkland said. "She's someone for anybody to look up to as a role model. I don't think you can have a better one."

Kirkland loves the way Delamater joins fellow senior varsity runners Tracy Risaliti and Whitney Stevenson in embracing freshmen Allison Peare, Erin Garfield and Sarah Tirell. Their teamwork has Hoover ranked 19th in the state.

"We have nine seniors in all, and they've really stepped up in all phases," Kirkland said. "And Jackie is a everything a leader needs to be."

DEALING WITH ASTHMA

Kirkland also has watched daily as Delamater handled a variety of health problems that threatened to knock her off course. But she kept on running through the adversity.

"I don't think people realize how mentally tough she is to be able to ... compete at the level she does," Kirkland said.

Delamater's primary obstacle in running has been exercise-induced asthma.

"I'm still trying to adjust to it," she said. "But I'm 10 times better than I was my freshman year. I'm slowly progressing."

Delamater was diagnosed as an eighth-grader.

She had first noticed her "breathing patterns were off" during cross country in the fall. She was a standout on Hoover's championship middle school team. But things became worse with basketball.

"The short sprints, the cutting, it really brought it out," she said.

She thought it was bronchitis. Instead, it was asthma, an inflammation of the airways restricting airflow into and out of the lungs. Attacks temporarily can cause wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and coughing. Severe attacks can lead to emergency treatment to restore normal breathing.

"Breathe through a straw and that's what it's like," Delamater said. "You can't get a deep breath in. It's really frustrating."

With help from family and friends, she has managed it.

"I've worked on breathing so that I don't need inhalers," she said. "I'm not big on medicines. ... I've learned not to freak out, to take really deep breaths and be mentally in it. I know it's always there when I'm running, but I don't think about it when I'm going into a race."

When she's running a 3.1-mile course and breathing becomes difficult, it's impossible to ignore. Her goal is to breathe in "every five steps I take ... let it out the next five."

"But more of my focus goes on breathing than staying with the person ahead of me. I've learned how to deal with it. I feel like I've developed this extremely high pain tolerance. I've been running with a pulled hamstring the last two weeks.

"I don't look at injuries as setbacks. I learn to deal with it so I can keep performing."

CYST 'NOT A BIG DEAL'

That mentality enables Delamater to run through other pain. The week before she ran her personal best, she discovered the source of intense abdominal cramps she began experiencing in races.

"I wondered if it was something I was eating or if I was not drinking enough water," she said. "I thought it would probably go away in a week."

After two disappointing races, the pain remained.

"I ran for 14 years, and I'd never known a cramp to stay that long," Kirkland said.

A CAT scan on Oct. 5 revealed an ovarian cyst. Doctors were not alarmed. The cyst is expected to disappear on its own, within a month or so. She can continue to run but knew it would be painful.

"I chose not to look at it from a negative standpoint because I could still run as long as I can deal with it," she said.

Delamater wanted to be a leader. Her mindset was: "To be a leader, you should be able to push through things."

She pushed on.

"They said it's not a big deal, but it is a big deal," Kirkland said. "She's handled it phenomenally."

The level of her toughness showed itself in a practice when the team did mile repeats - run a mile at a race pace, take a short break and repeat. Delamater had the option to back off. She refused.

"That said a lot to the team," Kirkland said. "She was crying. It hurt. But she kept pushing through it."

HAS AN EYE ON STATE

Her perseverance paid off Oct. 7 at the Strongsville Invitational. She finished as Hoover's No. 2 runner, helping the Vikings finish third behind two teams ranked among the state's top five: Magnificat and Hudson. They finished ahead of two other teams that have been state ranked, league rival GlenOak and Walsh Jesuit.

"I'd always felt like I wasn't the girl you could depend on," Delamater said. "It all came together, and it was really gratifying to help out my team and finally be the girl you could rely on."

She wants to be in Columbus with teammates for the state meet in two weeks. Hoover last reached state her freshman year when she was a varsity alternate.

"This has probably been my favorite year for cross country," she said. "Everyone has been pushing together, and we all have the same goals."

Delamater hopes to run in college (possibly at Walsh University) and maybe step into the ring and spar as a boxer. She wishes asthma could be in the opposite corner of the ring.

"I'd love to punch it in the face and prove to the asthma you can get over it," she said.

Delamater, though, appears to have proven plenty the day she saw her magic number.

"It was a perfect day," she said. "I finally achieved my goal. I didn't feel like I had a pain in the world. I didn't think about asthma, my cyst ... I was running well for my teammates, my coaches, myself. I proved to myself and everybody I could do what I set out to do."

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