Three with NCHSAA-ties to compete in 2016 Paralympics

On September 7th through the 18th of the month, the Paralympic Games will open in Rio de Janeiro and the NCHSAA will be well represented by a trio of athletes with ties to the association.

Hillside High School senior, Desmond Jackson, will represent the United States in Track and Field, Metrolina Soccer Officials Association Referee, Gregory Brigman, will play for the U.S. Paralympic Soccer team, while Jack Britt Alumna Heather Erickson will compete with the Women’s Sitting Volleyball team.

Desmond Jackson - Image by Durham Public Schools

Jackson had his leg amputated above the knee when he was less than a year old due to a birth defect. His mother encouraged him to stay active and he participated in soccer, football and horseback riding before choosing track and field in high school. He now trains with able-bodied runners at NC State and was a 2014 and 2015 U.S. Paralympics Track and Field High School All-American. He will compete in three events: the men’s 100 meter, 200 meter and long jump.

He told Durham Public Schools in an interview for the system’s website, “I feel like I have a really good chance to medal as long as I continue to run how I’ve been running lately.”

Jackson ran in the 2016 4A Track and Field Championships back in May and finished the 100 Meter Ambulatory Dash in a time of 13.03 seconds. He also posted a time of 29.46 seconds in the 200 Meter Dash Ambulatory and a 15’ 01.50” distance in the Long Jump Ambulatory at the State Championships. In 2015 he finished sixth in the 100 meters at the IPC Athletics World Championships and seventh in the long jump. In the 2015 Parapan American Games, Jackson finished third in the 100 meters and fifth in the long jump. In 2014 he won gold medals in the 100, 200 and 400 meter disciplines at the IWAS World Juniors meet.

Greg Brigman - Image from U.S. SoccerIt was through his connections as a soccer official that Gregory Brigman was introduced the Coach of the U.S. Paralympic National Soccer Team, who presented Gregory with an opportunity to try out for the team in March this year. As an NCHSAA Official, Brigman worked the 2016 1A Women’s Soccer State Championship in the spring.

Brigman was born with cerebral palsy and endured intense medical efforts to help improve his condition as a child. Through the surgery and therapy, doctors suggested he play soccer to strengthen his legs and Greg was able to play youth club soccer before playing Varsity soccer for four years at Hoke County High School and was distinguished with All Conference Honors his senior year. Brigman told the UNC Charlotte School of Engineering in a story, “It was a fun way of doing physical therapy. Once I got started, I learned to love the game.” Still in love with the game of soccer after graduating from UNC Charlotte, Brigman stayed involved with the game through officiating.

He was selected as a potential team member in late May and due to the time commitment to the team through travel requirements and training, decided to resign from his full-time job as a civil engineer. While his expenses to attend the Paralympic games are covered by U.S. Soccer, the regular bills of life are not covered and Gregory has set up a GoFundMe page to help support he and his wife so he can focus on training. If you choose, you can find out more information and donate to Gregory’s page by visiting the page here.

Heather Erickson is a Jack Britt High School alumna competing in her third Paralympic Games in the sport of seated volleyball, having been a part of a pair of U.S. Silver medal teams in Beijing (2008) and London (2012). During her time at Jack Britt, she was twice named to the All-Conference team in the Mid-South 4A (2009-2010). Fans that choose to can follow Heather on Twitter @HeatherSITVB6.

Join us in celebrating these two NCHSAA-involved Paralympic athletes and follow their achievements in Rio on the NCHSAA website and Twitter accounts.