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  • Boulder's Jackson McCabe in uniform for the U.S. Paralympic National...

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    Boulder's Jackson McCabe in uniform for the U.S. Paralympic National soccer team this past summer in Spain.

  • Boulder junior Jackson McCabe has not allowed a form of...

    Cliff Grassmick

    Boulder junior Jackson McCabe has not allowed a form of cerebral palsy slow him down as a member of the U.S. Paralympic soccer team.

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It was never as if Jackson McCabe’s parents were unwilling to push and encourage their young son as he wavered unsteadily as a little tyke, determined to finally take his first steps.

Yet after roughly two years of intense worry, combined with more than a few major life adjustments made on the fly, Eric and Daphne McCabe couldn’t have been more ecstatic when two-year old Jackson rose to his feet to finally take those first few tentative steps.

“When he did that it was like he graduated from college,” Daphne McCabe said. “I figured, ‘Good enough.'”

Pretty much since that moment, Jackson McCabe has been kicking down the doors of his perceived limitations. Stricken with hemiparesis, a form of cerebral palsy in which one side of a person’s body — in McCabe’s case, his left side — is rendered significantly weaker and less coordinated, McCabe has not allowed his alleged physical shortcomings hold him back.

Not only is McCabe part of the junior varsity squad for the defending state champion soccer program at Boulder, but the junior is an emerging talent on the U.S. Paralympic National team. McCabe traveled with the national team to the Intercontinental Cup in Spain in August, and there is a good chance he will be on the U.S. roster when the Paralympic Games are held in Rio De Janeiro in 2016.

“We certainly never thought he’d be able to do everything that he has,” Eric McCabe said. “The doctors gave us all sort of scenarios and we just tried to get him to lead as normal a life has possible. It’s been amazing to see him be such a pistol and be so involved.”

McCabe’s condition can be traced to a bout of hydrocephalus (fluid buildup in the brain) just three months after he was born. Although his left side would forever remain sluggish compared to the rest of his motor skills, McCabe nonetheless was on the more fortunate end of the possible outcomes from hydrocephalus. Some patients are left partially paralyzed. Others lose significant levels of cognitive function. McCabe suffered neither of these fates.

As he grew older, McCabe naturally was surrounded by friends who were getting into sports. His parents never dissuaded him from participating, but it wasn’t until an eight-year old McCabe was invited to play in a league put together by the National Sports Center for the Disabled that McCabe discovered his niche.

Legend has it, McCabe scored eight goals in one of his first games, opening the floodgates for opportunities that are now taking him around the world. McCabe was invited to his first Paralympic National Team training session under coach Jay Hoffman in 2010, and while he didn’t play much during the Spain sojourn last month, McCabe believes the trip served as a sort of springboard for his expected participation in the 2016 Paralympic Games.

“Coach (Hoffman) told me that the reason I was on the Spain roster so that I could be prepared for the 2016 Rio games,” McCabe said. “It was a huge honor to be included on the roster, but it was really great to travel with the team. I didn’t do much playing personally because I’m still pretty young and inexperienced, but it was a great experience to travel with the team and being part of an international roster.”

McCabe repeatedly expresses gratitude to coaches like Hoffman and Boulder’s Hardy Kalisher and Chris Honkamp for giving him an opportunity when so many others may not have. For his part, Kalisher regards McCabe as perhaps the hardest-working athlete in the Boulder program, and he lauds McCabe’s spirit as something that played a key role in the Panthers winning their first Class 5A state title a year ago.

“Jackson came out as a freshman and he immediately set a high standard for just working exceptionally hard,” Kalisher said. “Some guys have that innate in them, and he’s just a very driven young man.

“It’s all harder for him, and he’s out there doing what everyone else does and then some. My favorite story about him is when he was a freshman on the freshman-sophomore team he heard the varsity had an extra day of conditioning. After practice he just started doing what the varsity was doing. And that was running 30 minutes of wind sprints. He did it on his own, and that’s inspiring for everybody.”

Follow Pat on Twitter: twitter.com/prooney07

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