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Joppatowne’s Jacob McElroy adapts, plays on for love of lacrosse

Joppatowne varsity lacrosse player Jacob McElroy in battle in his usual attack position and playing with one hand.
Joppatowne varsity lacrosse player Jacob McElroy in battle in his usual attack position and playing with one hand. (courtesy Kadalena Housley/Baltimore Sun Media)

Joppatowne High School’s Jacob “Jake” McElroy is able to keep the heartbreak of losing his senior lacrosse season in perspective.

Before his 11th birthday, McElroy underwent surgery to remove a non-cancerous brain tumor. The result of the surgery, left him with little use of his right arm, basically from his shoulder to his fingers.

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It didn’t, however, keep McElroy from playing the sport he’s loved from a young age.

“I’ve adapted to it a lot, and living with this for almost seven years now I’ve just gotten used to it,” said McElroy, who along with thousands of athletes had his season ended when the state’s athletic association called off spring sports due to the coronavirus pandemic this week. “In a lot of situations with lacrosse, I’ve gotten around it, but it’s not like I don’t feel some level of frustration sometimes.”

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McElroy, though, plays on.

“It is something that I was always raised with, because my dad played in high school. He brought me up with it,” McElroy said. “Always liked how fast paced the game is and the little bit of strategy that goes into it. It’s just always something fun to watch.”

McElroy’s love for lacrosse started in elementary school, but it was mixed with baseball in the year’s prior to surgery. McElroy alternated between the sports, lacrosse one spring and baseball the next.

Following surgery, there was a break from both sports. McElroy was having to learn to walk again. He spent time at Kennedy Krieger for rehabilitation, which forced a delayed start of six to eight weeks in middle school.

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McElroy did not begin his freshman year on the lacrosse team. He went to watch the first game and quickly realized that he would certainly be able to play, limitations or not.

“I frequently play one-handed because I can’t easily get my right hand onto the stick,” McElroy said. “Once it’s on there, if there’s some down time, I’ll put it on and it can stay for a little while. But If I really start to do something, I have to go to one hand. I just think that’s the biggest difference I notice.”

McElroy played that freshman season and the next two, building up to this, his senior season as a co-captain for the Mariners.

But, like so many, McElroy was ready for a senior season that was halted after the first few weeks of practice.

“I’m missing just hanging around with friends and just doing something with my time,” he said. “Kind of unfortunate that I won’t get my senior night. It’s a big thing for all of us, especially the three of us that have put all four years into this.”

As a student, McElroy has shined. “Jacob is a pretty intelligent child, always has been. So thank God, cognitively, he stayed intact,” his mother Shannon McElroy said. “He was that Jake that he was before he went in, the Jake he came out afterwards.”

McElroy is a straight-A student and member of the National Honor Society. He’s also a member of the Rho Kappa Society (Social Studies).

And like the rest, McElroy has dealt with online learning during this pandemic.

“As far as online learning goes, I see the need for it somewhere for most students, but I don’t really like how disjointed it has been,” McElroy said.

Is lacrosse in McElroy’s future? “I really don’t know, I might try a men’s league or whatever. Probably not at any real competitive level,” he said.

School is a definite part of the future. McElroy will be attending Maryland, where he will study fire protection and engineering. McElroy’s father, Steve, is a career fireman in Anne Arundel County and the head boys lacrosse coach at Joppatowne.

“He’s a competitor. He just wants to get out there and play and his teammates know that, he’s a leader that way. He’s not loud or flashy about it, he just does it,” the coach said about his son. “He essentially plays one-handed and though his skills are solid, he always wants to get better. Not having the use of his right arm isn’t going to stop him. Teammates look to him because he knows the game and he has succeeded despite his condition.”

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