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August 11, 2022

Gonzales High student-athlete with disability knows no limits

Spartan freshman Jackie Camacho outplays competition

GONZALES — Anyone who watched Gonzales High athletics this year would have seen many hardworking student-athletes, but among the standouts was freshman Jackie Camacho, who didn’t let having one arm stand in her way of playing sports.

“I’m trying to show everyone that you can treat me normally,” Camacho said.

This past year Camacho played both football and basketball for the Spartans. From the time she was small, she grew up loving sports.

“I love how it feels to win,” she said. “I love how you can learn from losses. I love the bond you make with your teammates. I like the way it makes me feel. The adrenaline you get from playing sports is nothing like it.”

Camacho decided to play football for the first time last fall, during which she saw most of her playing time on special teams. Playing football was always on her bucket list because of her uncle, North Monterey County High School alumnus Mike Lopez.

She wanted to be like her uncle, so she made sure to get the same jersey number — 32.

“Growing up, my uncle Mike played football, so my whole life, I wanted to play,” she said.

After the football season, Camacho decided to use her talents for the JV girls basketball team, where she was named a starter. She didn’t let her limitations get in the way as she outplayed most of her competition.

Jackie Camacho uses her talents as a starter for the Spartan JV girls basketball team. (Jason Gallardo/Staff)

Because of Camacho’s condition, many people have acted differently around her when it comes to athletics, even hinting that she wouldn’t be able to play at their level.

“I learned not to give up,” she said. “And I learned not to let people tell me what I can do.”

Camacho’s teammates have been a big help this year because they didn’t treat her differently. When she was out on the court or field, they felt normal when they were around her.

“I got friendships out of it,” she said, “and loyalty. Throughout the year, they always had my back. I also got the experience of doing something I had never done before.”

As a young woman with a disability, Camacho has always tried to fight against the stereotype of not being treated like regular people. One of the main reasons she played sports was to show she could do things like everyone else.

“When people first see me, they think I can’t do certain things,” she said. “They treated me like a liability, which always bothered me.”

As Camacho moves into her sophomore year, the mission to prove people wrong hasn’t changed. But now her goal is to try to win a league title for Gonzales and do the things people don’t think she can do.

“My whole life, I have been trying to show people that I can do anything,” she said, “regardless of what situation I’m in.”

Jason Gallardo
Jason Gallardo is the sports reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers high school sports for South Monterey County.

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