Every time Henry McCann takes the field for the Watterson High School boys lacrosse team, the senior midfielder cherishes the experience.
A cancer survivor, the Clintonville resident doesn't take playing his favorite sport for granted.
"I've had to clear a lot of major hurdles to get to where I am today, and that's taught me the value of time and how living life the way you want to is a gift," McCann said. "When I'm able to run out on the field and play the sport I love, I always think about how blessed I am that my life has come full circle to this point once again."
McCann began playing the sport in sixth grade after receiving a lacrosse stick as a birthday gift from former Ohio State and current University of North Carolina men's lacrosse coach Joe Breschi, who was his neighbor at the time and is a close friend of the family.
McCann made varsity as a freshman at St. Charles and earned a starting position as a sophomore, only to miss the second half of the 2012 season with a back injury. When he was ruled academically ineligible for his junior season, he focused on making sure he would play as a senior.
"That was really tough not being able to play as a junior, but it was my own fault and it was a great lesson in humility," McCann said. "I got into weight lifting to fill my time and I got into the best shape of my life."
However, McCann began experiencing severe abdominal pain during that time, and on May 27, just a week before his 18th birthday, he went to the emergency room, where tests revealed that a tumor was obstructing his bowel. After the tumor was removed, further tests revealed that he had colorectal cancer.
"It was shocking because Henry was in such great shape and it was terrifying to hear that he had cancer," his mother, Katie McCann, said. "His father and I wished we could trade places with him because this is something that a 17-year-old shouldn't have to go through. But Henry received lots of support from his friends, family and the entire community, and he never complained. He stayed positive and upbeat through the entire experience."
Last June, McCann began six months of chemotherapy treatments.
"That was a gauntlet," he said. "The worst part of chemo was feeling sick and drained all of the time. I was constantly sleeping and I lost 20 pounds over those six months."
McCann said he stayed positive through the entire process by drawing inspiration from a childhood friend, Seth Jenkins, who died in 2010 at age 13 after battling leukemia for six years.
"I remember my dad and mom were crying when they told me I had cancer, but I wasn't worried because I knew I had so many great people taking care of me who love me," McCann said. "I had already seen the model of courage from my friend Seth. He suffered from cancer for so long, but he adopted the phrase 'Courage is not the absence of fear,' and you never could catch him without a smile on his face. He showed me that when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade."
Wanting to have a shorter commute to school, McCann transferred to Watterson, where he has been embraced by his new schoolmates and teachers. He was voted homecoming king last fall and was named one of the captains for the lacrosse team.
Coach Tom Foley said McCann has been a valuable addition and an inspiration for his young team, which was 4-3 before playing Delaware on April 29.
"Henry is a big kid and he has a great set of skills," Foley said. "He's really good on groundballs and he moves the ball well for us through the midfield. He plays hard and he leads by example. ... He's a great example to all of us that we can overcome the obstacles that come our way."
McCann said he has regained the muscle and cardiovascular conditioning that he lost from undergoing chemotherapy, but he occasionally experiences numbness and tingling in his hands and feet because of neuropathy, a condition that can result from chemotherapy.
However, he hasn't let that stop him from playing lacrosse.
"I know how fortunate I am to be able to play lacrosse again and I'm enjoying every minute of it," McCann said. "I've had my setbacks ... but the greatest gift that's come out of all of this is I've learned how many people truly care for me and how loved I am. That's a bigger positive than any negative thing I've had to overcome."
Baseball team looking for strong CCL finish
The baseball team will wrap up CCL play with games Friday, May 2, at Hartley and Wednesday, May 7, at home against DeSales.
Watterson, which was 9-5 overall and 3-1 in the CCL before playing St. Charles on April 28 and Ready on April 30, defeated the Hawks 5-4 on April 11 and beat the Stallions 7-6 on April 16.
Through 14 games, Sam Severance had a team-high .455 batting average. On the mound, Sam Rice was 2-1 with a 0.97 ERA and Sean Helenthal was 1-0 with a 1.05 ERA.
Watterson entered the week having won four of its previous five games.
The Eagles defeated Fisher Catholic 12-0 in six innings April 23 behind a no-hitter by Chris Slavik and beat Worthington Kilbourne 10-0 in five innings April 24 behind a four-hitter by Rice.
After losing to Jonathan Alder 3-1 in 13 innings April 26, the Eagles defeated Russell (Ky.) 10-0 in five innings later that day. Against Russell, Alex Gabel pitched a three-hitter and Rice hit a two-run home run.
"We have played a solid schedule but have lost some games that we may have fared better in if we were a better hitting team," coach Scott Manahan said. "We have a team batting average of .290, but (many of our) runs have come against weaker pitching. We have been pitching and fielding well and (that) has been keeping us in all our games."
Softball team picks up first two victories
The softball team was 2-9 overall and 0-2 in the CCL before playing Ready on April 28 and DeSales on April 30.
Watterson lost its first seven games before defeating Grove City Christian 11-1 in six innings April 22 behind a no-hitter by Ashley Competti. The Eagles' other win came against Youngstown Ursuline, 14-5 on April 26 as Erin Vonderwell was the winning pitcher.
The win over Ursuline followed a 7-5 league loss to DeSales on April 23 and a 19-2 loss to Marysville on April 24.
The Eagles will play host to Hartley in a CCL game Monday, May 5, before concluding league play Wednesday, May 7, at Ready. They lost to the Hawks 9-0 on April 16.