A jump in the right direction

BHS freshman excels in athletics as U.S. Paralympics All-American athlete

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published November 18, 2015

 Beaudoin approaches the long jump pit at the competition.

Beaudoin approaches the long jump pit at the competition.

Photo provided by Christine McNish

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BERKLEY — Margaret Beaudoin is making a name for herself with U.S. Paralympics.

The 15-year-old Berkley High School freshman suffered a stroke while her mother, Christine McNish, was pregnant with her, and it has affected the left side of Beaudoin’s body; she has hemiplegic cerebral palsy.

Ever since kindergarten, Beaudoin has competed in athletics whenever she’s had the chance. First it was youth soccer, then she dabbled in baseball, tennis and basketball before she got into running. In the summer, Beaudoin takes up adaptive water skiing to stay active.

The constant pursuit to keep getting better has paid off, as Beaudoin has competed around the country, and this fall she was named a U.S. Paralympics High School All-American in the long jump after setting a personal best of 2.29 meters, or just over 7.5 feet, at this summer’s National Junior Disability Championships competition in New Jersey.

“Margaret was feeling kind of frustrated because it was a struggle for her to not run as fast as the fully able-bodied kids, so it was frustrating placing last,” McNish said of her daughter. “But her coach said it was all about her personal best, and she was getting better every week. I went hunting to see comparable times for athletes with cerebral palsy, and she was running fast enough to go to nationals. And since the first year in 2011, she has qualified to go to nationals every year.”

Beaudoin and her family didn’t find out about her All-American status until her father found the press release online during Labor Day weekend. While it was a goal this year, Beaudoin wasn’t sure she would achieve the recognition this season.

Running has come naturally for Beaudoin since a young age; she joined a youth running club from first to third grade at Burton Elementary School. She then easily transitioned onto the Our Lady of La Salette cross country team from fourth to seventh grade before running with Shrine Catholic Academy in eighth grade.

Even though high school track doesn’t begin until the spring, Beaudoin is training for the upcoming season at BHS.

“When we have time, I go up to Hurley Field, and my dad comes with me, and we go to Rogers (Elementary School) and practice shot put and discus,” Beaudoin said. “It’s fun.”

While running was what first brought Beaudoin to Paralympic competition, during the regional competition in 2011 in Saginaw, a coach from St. Louis helped Beaudoin learn several field events. Now, she regularly runs the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races, as well as competes in long jump, shot put, discus and javelin.

She even finds time to compete in two swimming events.

“There is a lot of camaraderie because everybody has a physical disability and goes through struggles in everyday life, but may not have people like them around,” McNish said. “In these events, they find a group of people who have things in common with them, and they help each other out.”

While competing at a high level is exciting, Beaudoin said, it is the people she has met and the friendships she has made with other athletes with disabilities across the country that sticks out to her.

“I have gotten to know a bunch of people from all over the place,” she said. “I am on a team from Pittsburgh, because there is no team in Michigan. I practice on my own, and I see them at events.”

McNish and her husband didn’t know Beaudoin had suffered a stroke until she was nearly a year old. Seeing that Beaudoin wasn’t holding her bottle with her left hand or really using her left hand for anything, they consulted a neurologist. At 9 months old she was diagnosed with a stroke, which was confirmed a few months later with an MRI.

Because the stroke was on the right side of her body, her entire left side was affected, from her vision to her arms, hips and legs. The stroke, McNish said, was from a blood clot that had formed in one of Beaudoin’s main arteries in her brain.

Beaudoin competes in category 37 during competition, which is defined as being for athletes who have movement and coordination problems on one half of their body, but who have good ability in their dominant side of the body.

Even with all the success, Beaudoin has continued to set goals, including competing in the World Junior Disability Championships next summer in Prague, as well as qualifying for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

Her parents continue to admire how much competing has helped Beaudoin grow in every aspect of her life.

“My husband said it the first time he took her to Saginaw, and we see it every year we go to regionals or nationals, and that is she has a different personality in a sense, that she feels comfortable and just has fun and doesn’t worry about all the other social things that happen as a teenager,” McNish said.

“She has developed a lot of self-confidence and her self-esteem has been impacted, and she brings that into everything else she does. It’s like she blossomed when she got into the Paralympic program.”

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