CENTRAL POINT -- Maggie Lacey has a knack for fighting back. From the age of four, she can remember wanting to play elite soccer. When her body started failing her, those plans were thrown through a loop.
"There was one episode where she just could not get out of bed," Lacey's mother Jamie said.
Lacey was five years old at the time and was taken in for tests on her thyroid. Her doctor concluded she had Graves' disease, an autoimmune disease that gave Lacey headaches, made her extremely fatigued, and made it hard for her to regulate her heart rate.
"We'd take her to games and we'd just notice she was extra tired, headaches," Lacey's father Aaron recalls..
Her soccer coach from ages 10-14, Randy Fitch, said her heart rate would be in the 150-160 range, sometimes getting as high as 200. In those moments, she would have to be removed from the game, something that was tough on the competitor, but also those watching her.
"The word I would use is heartbreaking," Aaron Lacey said.
While Lacey struggled to treat her symptoms, she faced very few struggles on the pitch. She continued to dominate competition up through her 14U season and ended up making the Portland Thorns Academy team, which practices in the Rose City every weekend.
"On a weekly basis, we drive more than 20 hours a week," Maggie Lacey said.
Lacey and her siblings are home schooled, which makes the travel easier, at least in its flexibility. That still doesn't stop family friends from wondering how they manage to pull it off.
"A lot of people think we're kind of crazy," Aaron Lacey said.
"It's all been worth it," Maggie Lacey added, "It always has been."
Lacey continues to manage her disease, which could go away at any time, but could also be with her for her entire life. Autoimmune diseases are unpredictable like that. She hasn't let that slow her down, though, and her sophomore year, she was offered a soccer scholarship to the University of Oregon.
She verbally committed to the Ducks and earlier in November, she put pen to paper and officially became an Oregon signee. The pride of being the only player from Southern Oregon on her travel team, and one of the few to land a Division I scholarship in any sport is something that keeps her going.
“One of the biggest things that always drives me is being able to represent Southern Oregon," Maggie Lacey said.
“You get to be the small-town kid that gets to travel to all these places and do all these things. You have a lot of pride being able to do that.”
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