Aaron Lupo is a battler, and to some, an inspiration.
The 18-year-old Schenectady High School lacrosse star doesn’t see himself in that light, though. He’s simply pressing on, striving to score goals and help his team win games.
He’s been quite successful at both, in what is developing into quite a story.
“A lot of people tell me they’re proud of me,” said Lupo, the 2007 Big 10 Player of the Year. “I take it and thank them, but I’m just trying to get by the best I can.”
Lupo was diagnosed in mid-December with Type-1 diabetes; his body was no longer producing insulin. The condition was detected when he failed to heal properly after having his tonsiles removed.
His whole world, his mom Carol said, “Came crashing down,” before he began to rebuild it.
“We call it a condition, not a disease. That came from him,” said Carol Lupo, a physical education teacher at Schenectady and the varsity girls’ basketball coach. “He doesn’t want people to think, ‘Something is wrong with me.’ He doesn’t want to use it as an excuse. He’s learning how to manage it. He’s going to keep moving on with his life.”
Lacrosse is a big part of it. Lupo has been a scoring force since he joined the Schenectady varsity as a freshman, and his on-field ability — along with an outstandiong academic resume — is his ticket to Sacred Heart University. He’ll head there next fall as the Patriots’ all-time goal scoring leader, showing 169 tallies with this season not even halfway completed.
“It was on December 14th when I found out. I remember the day, and it scared the crap out of me. It was like a bomb dropping,” said Lupo, who is one of 20.8 million people in the United States afflicted with diabetes in one form or another. “One of the first things I thought about was, ‘Am I going to be able to play?’ I had already committed to a college.”
Down to 135 pounds at one point, Lupo opened this season on the field against Shaker at a healthy 180. He pumped in four goals in a 7-6 victory that day, showing the same moves and speed that had produced 63 goals last year, 55 in 2006 and 24 in 2005.
“I was worried for him as a person and a student more than a lacrosse player. You could see the changes in his body at the beginning of the year,” Schenectady lacrosse coach Dave Trahan said of the midfielder. “To see how he bounced back is amazing. He went through a lot of ups and downs. What’s really impressive is his overall demeanor.”
“Every day is a little different with how I’m feeling, but for the most part, I’m 100 percent,” said Lupo, who dealt with insulin injections before being fitted with a pump in January. “I’m pretty much back to my ‘A’ game.”
Lupo’s most productive game of the year came two weeks ago, when he broke Pat Meade’s school record of 154 career goals with seven against Bethlehem. He capped his performance with an overtime goal, in a 14-13 triumph.
“The Bethlehem game, and the Shaker game, they were great because no one expected us beat the Suburban Council teams, but I think one of our most important games was against Glens Falls, when we lost [11-7],” Lupo said. “That loss is what has carried us. We went into it on top of the world and got our knees cut out from under us. That motivated us. We know what it’s like to lose, and no one wants that.”
Schenectady has prevailed in five of six games since then, and with a 6-2 overall record, has surpassed its entire 2007 win total. Lupo has been right in the middle of Schenectady’s resurgance, notching four goals Saturday in a win over South Glens Falls, four in a win over Albany Academy and three each in victories against LaSalle and Amsterdam.
“When he first came to the varsity as a freshman, I knew he was a special player,” Trahan said. “He’s a very good athlete, and he has an instinct that’s uncanny. He finds the goal.”
Lupo’s 63 goals last year tied Meade’s school mark (2001, 2002). He notched seven of them in a win over Amsterdam, and added five assists in that contest, to tie another Meade record with 12 points.
“My sophomore year, I had a goal of 50 goals, and I got that, so last year I said, ‘Why not,’ and upped it to 75. I didn’t make it,” Lupo sais with a laugh. “Hopefully, this year I’ll make it.”
He’ll have plenty of company in his quest, and they won’t be waring Schenectady red, white and blue.
“He realizes people are keying on him, and he’s giving it up at the right times and in the right situations,” Trahan said. “It’s something he’s really excelled at this year.”
Lupo has collected 16 assists to go along with his 27 goals, and has set up at least one tally in every game. He ended up with 18 assists last year, 14 as a sophomore and nine as a freshman.
“People knew who I was last year, and I think I got some respect playing in the Empire State Games, so this year, right off the bat, people were sliding over and doubling me,” Lupo said. “I think I’m getting more [assists] because our offensive guys have matured and gotten better. They’re helping me get them.”
A three-year team captain, Lupo is helping the Patriots win with his points on the field, and the ones he makes off of it.
“I’ve been with Aaron for a long time, and this year he’s been right on with our group, and they look up to the guy,” Trahan said. “He teaches them the right things. He tells them the right things. Sometimes, it has a little more meaning when it comes from another player.”
Lupo recently talked to another prominant area player, University of Albany basketball star Brian Connelly, who also was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes while in high school.
“I think that was a good experience for Aaron,” said his mom. “Brian talked about what it’s like to be a college athlete with diabetes. He gave Aaron tips and some practical things to do, and he said, sometimes, you have to be a little selfish. He said if there’s one Gatorade left, you’ve got to say, ‘I’ve got to have that.’ ”
By nature, Lupo is an unselfish young man and a rather low-key sort, yet he said he’d be willing to open up and share his own experience with others.
“I don’t want extra attention because of it, but if someone wants to come to me, I’ll help as much as I can,” he said. “I’m not trying to send out a message.”
Yet by facing adversity head-on — and overcoming it — he is.
“I don’t call it a disease. It’s a condition, and I can control it,” he added. “Hopefully, someday it would be nice if they could find a cure for it.”
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