Hilliard Davidson High School senior Maddie Gallagher was shocked, scared and confused when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 9.
With type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas that controls the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood and converts it to energy the body needs.
Gallagher spent four nights in a hospital to learn how to cope with her medical condition, and according to her parents, Dan and Jodee, one doctor told them that their daughter would be physically limited in the future.
However, Gallagher hasn't let diabetes stop her from getting all that she can out of life, including developing into one of the top athletes on the Davidson girls track and field team and a Division I college recruit.
"Hearing that I had diabetes was so dramatic and confusing because I didn't even know what it was. I just knew that my life was never going to be the same as it was before," she said. "It was hard to adapt to having to take a shot every hour and things like not being able to eat cake at birthday parties. But I knew that I wasn't going to let it take sports away from me. I love track and field and, if anything, finding out I had diabetes made me even more determined to work hard to keep doing what I love to do."
Dan Gallagher said his daughter has been an inspiration to her family, friends and teammates.
"Our family was kind of rocked when Madeline was diagnosed with diabetes and she actually handled it better than we did," he said. "We were all emotional and she just looked at us and said, 'There's a lot worse things that kids can get. I'll be fine.' It's been pretty amazing seeing how well she goes with the flow. She inspires me and everyone around her, and I just hope she will inspire other people with diabetes to continue to do their best at whatever they enjoy doing."
Training and competing with diabetes has presented Gallagher with a number of challenges.
Gallagher has to prick one of her fingers with a small needle to test her blood sugar level eight to 10 times a day. If her blood sugar level gets too high or too low, she can feel ill, thirsty, irritable and light-headed.
When her blood sugar level is low, she simply needs to eat candy or drink juice to bring it back up. But when it gets too high, she needs to give herself an insulin injection.
"When I can't complete a workout, I feel like I've let my teammates down," Gallagher said. "But that motivates me to work harder when I'm physically able to practice."
Gallagher said she has passed out at school and has felt ill on a few occasions while competing, but she has never let her medical condition prevent her from competing in an entire meet.
"I always knew that Maddie had the talent to become the athlete she is today. I just didn't know how well she would be able to overcome her health issues," coach Matt Beatty said. "It seems like we've had a scare every year she's been here, with Maddie getting light-headed during a practice or a meet because she will push herself to the point where she's about to pass out. But she's a fearless competitor who has overcome everything life throws at her. She's our second-leading scorer and she's good at just about any event we put her in, especially the long jump, high jump and relays."
Last year, Gallagher had a breakthrough season.
She teamed with Lizzy Litzinger, Lauren Hoover and Ashley Blake to place seventh in the 1,600-meter relay (3 minutes, 58.34 seconds) in the Division I state meet at Ohio State. The relay had advanced to state by placing fourth in the regional meet at Pickerington North in a program-record 3:56.2.
Gallagher also just missed advancing to state in an individual event, as she placed fifth in the long jump (16 feet, 10 inches) at regional, one inch behind the fourth and final state qualifier.
In addition, she helped set the program record in the 800 relay last year, when she teamed with Litzinger, Cassy Catlett and Blake to place third in the district 2 meet at Darby in 1:44.06.
"I was really determined to improve as a junior, so I quit competitive cheerleading to do summer and winter track instead," Gallagher said.
Last summer, Gallagher competed in a heptathlon for the first time and her performance led to several scholarship offers. She signed a letter of intent with Ohio University in March.
"It's been a thrill," Gallagher said. "I never thought I would get offered a Division I scholarship, so I'm really excited with how everything turned out. I want to make an impact on my college team. But before I leave for OU, my goal is to make it back to state in the 1,600 relay and to go far in the high jump and long jump, too."
Davidson boys win Panther Invite title
The Davidson boys team won Darby's Panther Invitational for the third consecutive year.
The Wildcats scored 136 points in the meet April 12 to finish ahead of Olentangy Liberty (116.5), Darby (88), Chillicothe Unioto (74), Westerville South (64), Dublin Jerome (64), Olentangy Orange (22), Watterson (10), Westland (9.5) and Leesburg Fairfield (4).
Placing first for the Wildcats were Joe Bernard, Dametrius Clark, Phillipie Motley and Damarcus Nelson in the 1,600 relay (3:31.44), Motley in the 100 (11.07) and 200 (23.01), Clark in the 400 (52.51) and Bernard, Clark, Nelson and Cody Shutt in the 800 relay (1:33.27).
Finishing first for Darby were Devon Staten in the long jump (20-3), Chase Hampton in the 1,600 (4:34.46) and Dwayne Oates, Collin Rack, Timothy Lines and Cal Kelleher in the 400 relay (44.75).
The Davidson girls team finished second (138) in the Panther Invitational, behind Liberty (150) and ahead of Westerville South (94), Orange (82), Darby (74), Jerome (38), Unioto (11) and Westland (1).
Finishing first for the Wildcats were Mackenzie Brown in the pole vault (9-0), Elsa Saelens, Litzinger, Lilly Saniel-Banrey and Hoover in the 1,600 relay (4:15.11), Catherine Hildebrand in the 3,200 (11:44.03), Hoover in the 800 (2:26.99) and 1,600 (5:28.76), Jane Haines, Abby Bernard, Saniel-Banrey and Hoover in the 3,200 relay (10:06.66) and Saelens, Margo Lince, Hildebrand and Jane Onders in the distance medley relay (13:15.38).
Placing first for Darby was Julissa Poullet in the high jump (4-11).