Having had a mild case of cerebral palsy since birth, 15 year-old Jaycob Clarke has struggled with muscle tightness in his arms and legs all his life.
And while this condition does make range of movement and physical activity for the Deniliquin High School student difficult and painful at times, he refuses to let it stop him from pursing his love of sport — particularly soccer and athletics.
This determination to push past his physical restrictions has paid dividends for Jaycob, who will compete at the NSW State Championship in Sydney later this month.
He was invited to compete at state before the Regional Championships in Wollongong on February 17 and 18 — at which Deniliquin athletes Jessica Dover and Bede Orr qualified to compete at state.
With his performance at regionals having no bearing on his eligibility to compete at state, Jaycob chose not to attend so he could rest his body in preparation for the big event.
Jaycob competes in the Multi Class section, specifically for para-athletes, and after assessment from a physiotherapist has been put in the track field 36 classification.
In what will be his second state performance in four years, he will compete in his four pet events — 100m and 800m races, long jump and discus.
‘‘I did qualify to compete at regionals, but I felt I needed a bit of a break before Sydney,’’ Jaycob said.
‘‘At zone I got three out of four new PBs and (at state) I’ll be trying to reach some new personal bests.
‘‘When I first started athletics I was completing the 800m with a time of about five minutes, and now I’ve gotten it down to four minutes and nine seconds. My aim is to drop below four minutes.
‘‘In the 100m I was at 21 seconds and my new personal best is 19 seconds, and I would like to get that down to 18 seconds.
‘‘My PB in long jump is 2.3 metres, and in discus I’m getting about 13 metres but my aim is to get 15 metres.’’
Jaycob’s father David Clarke said structured physical activity was recommended by Jaycob’s doctors, but that it was Jaycob who chose which sports he wanted to pursue.
His first choice was to join the Deni District Soccer Club when he was still in primary school, and he later added summer sports at Deniliquin Athletics in the under 13s age group.
‘‘I wanted something that would keep me active, and I knew I did not want to play anything too rough,’’ Jaycob said.
‘‘I already had some friends involved in both athletics and soccer too.
‘‘At athletics, when I started I was falling behind all the other kids but I have gradually gotten better.
‘‘Sometimes I get in a lot of pain when I race, but I manage to get through it.
‘‘I like using the Deniliquin Athletics motto, which is to do my best.’’
Jaycob’s dedication to sport has already seen him win two major awards, which he uses as inspiration to improve his performance further.
In 2015 he received the International Day for People with a Disability sports award at the Deniliquin celebration, and last year he proudly claimed the Deniliquin Athletics Sportsmanship Award.
The NSW State Championship will be held at Homebush in Sydney from march 23 to 25. All of Jaycob’s events will be held on the final day.