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Taking It in Stride

It’s game day, and junior Caitlin McCabe, a member of the IUP Color Guard, wakes up with the sound of last night’s practice and the new choreography on her mind. She’s psyched about the 2013 field show—the James Bond 007 theme—and she can’t wait to be at Miller Stadium with her fellow IUP Marching Band members. She starts to get her gear together for the day: her uniform, her flag—and her prosthetic leg.

Caitlin McCabe

McCabe, from Birdsboro, was born missing most of her right leg as a result of amniotic band syndrome, a condition in which the fetus becomes entangled in string-like bands in the amniotic fluid. Restricted blood flow causes the loss in part or whole of fingers, toes, or limbs before the baby is born. McCabe has worn a prosthetic leg her entire life.

“I’m very open about it,” she said. “My parents raised me like, ‘you’re normal.’ And maybe, since I’ve never had this leg, it’s a little easier than for someone who has a leg amputated.”

A generous view, to be sure. It’s not for the faint of heart to deal with the daily frustrations of using a prosthetic leg, the need for a new device every year as she was growing up, and of course the reactions from strangers.

But McCabe, a petite, pretty sparkplug, isn’t faint hearted. She’s majoring in Criminology, with minors in Danceand Psychology, and she’s performed as a member of the IUP Color Guard since her freshman year. She was also in the color guard at Daniel Boone High School.

“My mom made me come and visit IUP,” she said. “Coming from the eastern part of the state, I didn’t know about IUP. I was like, ‘What’s the Legend?’ I thought I’d try out, but I didn’t expect it to be as good as my high school guard.” She laughed.

McCabe said auditioning was a whole new experience. “The two Color Guard captains were very welcoming, and I had a friend from high school here, but it was still nerve racking.”

Caitlin McCabe

David Martynuik, director of the IUP Marching Band, concedes that he was “slightly skeptical” when she arrived for auditions. “Performing in the guard requires a high level of coordination, balance, strength, and musicality,” he said. “But after watching her for about 10 seconds, I saw that she’s more than up to these demands.”

McCabe made the cut. And in no time she found herself one of the “extended family” of the IUP Marching Band.

“The band students look after and are supportive of each other,” said Martynuik, “no matter what their backgrounds.” 

McCabe knew that transitioning to college life would be a challenge. “In high school, I was already known as the girl with one leg,” she said. “In coming to IUP, I had to be prepared to answer questions from people who didn’t know me.

“Being in the band helped—coming early to campus, making friends to have lunch with and hang out with. A lot of us have nicknames; mine’s Peggy,” she said with a smile. Her roommate is also in the Color Guard.

“The reasons we are the Legend, and sound so good and look so good, are the experiences we go through as a group, the time we spend rehearsing, the work we put in together,” McCabe said. “We’re often practicing in the dark, or in the rain. Or if one of us gets sick, often others get sick, too. If you make a mistake performing, others support you. We each say at times, ‘Oh, you saved me.’ We’ve all saved each other.”

What theme song could be more fitting than the James Bond score for this Criminology major and most determined student?

Her choice of major and professional interest grew out of watching the series Criminal Minds, about profilers who analyze the psychology of serial criminals to try to prevent their next crime.

“My goal is to be a special agent,” she said. “If I can, I don’t want people to have to go through trauma. It feels kind of cheesy to say this, but I want to help make the world a safer place.”

More from the Fall-Winter 2013 Issue of IUP Magazine



Women are no longer outsiders in distance running, even in races beyond 100 miles, due in part to the trailblazing Marcy Schwam

The Spirit of Us

The Spirit of Us

University athletics benefit more than student-athletes; they build school spirit and a sense of community. Now, the university has a bold new symbol to showcase that pride

Message from the President

Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

Namedroppers | Achievements | Mentors

Photo Gallery | Letters to the Editor | In Brief

Homecoming, 80 Years Later

As thousands of alumni returned to campus in October to celebrate Homecoming 2013, they continued a tradition that has spanned eight decades

Dr. Rock

Mike Barnett came to IUP to grow musically. Twenty years later, the CU-Boulder faculty member has enlisted the help of an IUP mentor on his latest project—a fusion of metal, rock, and jazz

Surviving the Storm

As shrinking high school class sizes take their toll on student enrollment, IUP must rely on innovation to weather the challenge