The Mercy School field hockey team was in another close game as it took aim at a third IAAM C Conference championship title in four years. But before she knew it, Magic coach Alex Chambers noticed Jenna Parr, the team’s leading scorer, was taking herself out of the game in the second half.
“It’s nothing I haven’t seen before,” Chambers said. “Jenna hates to come out of the game because she loves the sport and she loves to compete. She also is very good at communicating. Jenna knows what is best for her and she has never used that as an excuse.”
“That” is Insulin Dependent Diabetes, an ailment Parr has lived with for a little over 12 years.
Her blood sugar level was at a dangerous low so Parr, who endures 8-10 finger pricks and 6-9 insulin injections a day to help keep the disease in check, came off the field for treatment.
Just as Parr rallied, so did her team. After falling behind 1-0 at halftime to Annapolis Area Christian in the conference final Oct. 31, the Magic scored two second-half goals en route to a 2-1 victory. After returning to the game, Parr scored the game-winning goal with 47 seconds left in regulation.
“It can be harder to play like a normal person but I’ve been in really good control (of diabetes) in my opinion,” said Parr, who finished her senior campaign with a team-high 17 goals and 12 assists. “Sports has always helped me because I like to push through it all.”
When her blood sugar level gets too low or high, Parr said that she becomes dizzy and it can be a critical time to come off the field before a migraine headache or seizure sets in. Her teammates and coaches are aware of her disease and Parr said they look at her momentary absences on the field as routine.
“Diabetes has not only affected my day-to-day health, it has affected my entire life,” Parr wrote in a college application essay.
For Parr, it doesn’t just end with insulin injections. She also suffers from three other Auto-Immune diseases, which affect her thyroid, stomach and her chances of having a baby in the future.
“When Jenna’s girlfriends were all going through puberty, Jenna was in full blown menopause,” said Linda Parr, Jenna’s mother. “She’s been through a lot over 12 years and has never used that as an excuse. She never lets it get in the way and has overcome a lot of hardships.
“To walk in her shoes everyday — I can’t imagine it. It’s amazing she’s competed at this high level for 12 years and never complained or given up.”
Parr hasn’t let the ailments hinder her goal-scoring ability. The four-year varsity player — she was the only freshman at Mercy brought up to the varsity squad in 2006 — led the team in scoring all four seasons and finished with a combined 52 goals and 25 assists.
It was during her freshman season when she made a splash. Parr scored the game-winning goal against Baltimore Lutheran in the C Conference final in double overtime and has been lighting up the cage ever since.
“It was a little difficult to start off because I didn’t know anyone,” said Parr, a three-time IAAM C Conference all-star. “But I met one of my best friends and once I started scoring goals, everyone liked me.”
Chambers said she saw plenty of potential in Parr when she first entered the program and her progression the last four years has been a steady ride.
“The cool thing about Jenna is that she never stops,” Chambers said. “She brings so much confidence to the team and when we huddle, she’s a huge motivator for her teammates.”
When asked about the team’s success in the postseason — aside from the three titles during Parr’s four years, the Magic have also won four of the last six championships — the team captain described Mercy’s ability “to click together” as its main strength.
“There’s been a few seasons when we weren’t sure but we always pulled together,” said Parr, a former competitive swimmer, who has also competed for the Mercy lacrosse and golf teams.
Playing club field hockey year round has also shaped Parr’s game. Her prep career may be complete but field hockey is still very much a part of her life. On Tuesday, Parr leaves for California where she will compete with the Baltimore Blitz Field Hockey Club in her final USFHA Festival Tournament under coach Warren Prestwich (Goucher College). She also played on two indoor field hockey club qualifier teams and competed at the 2009 Disney Showcase with Team Baltimore Field Hockey Club in February.
On Friday, she received her early-acceptance letter from High Point University (N.C.) where she plans to play with the club field hockey team. Her older brother, Jason, attends High Point along with Danielle Maskeroni, who played alongside Parr for two years at Mercy and is a close friend.
“When we go down for family weekend, I would always catch a few games,” said Parr, who attracted interest from several Division II and III schools. “That made me realize I wanted to play club field hockey.”
Not having to designate a majority of her time towards the sport she loves will help her in college. It will give her time to focus on her school work and the numerous diseases she refuses to let dictate her life.
“You can’t give up and make excuses,” Parr said. “If work hard and practice, you can really do anything you want.”