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Taking the Plunge

Kendra Herber’s Whirlwind Journey to Paratriathlon Excellence

Lakota West ninth grade English teacher Kendra Herber has a competitive spirit, determined attitude and the daily discipline needed to achieve big things, and never more so than in the past year,  as she added author and triathlete to her life accomplishments.

In addition to teaching and being a parent, she recently became a published author, writing a memoir called WHOLE: A Leg Up on Life. Her book discusses her personal story, including how a birth defect resulted in her leg and foot amputation at age two. In promoting the book, she began interviewing Paralympians, eventually meeting one who was a triathlete, Melissa Stockwell. Triathletes compete in swimming, running and bicycling in a competition that tests many different aspects of athletic prowess.

“Melissa inspired me to sign up for my first Super Sprint, a really short distance to get my toes wet, and I really started training,” says Kendra. “As I posted some of my times, Melissa sent me a message inviting me up to her training camp in Wisconsin.” 

Kendra began training in earnest as Melissa saw her potential and pointed out that she could qualify for the Paratriathlon National Championships, which she did. In less than nine months, Kendra prepared to compete in the International Americas Triathlon Para Championship as well, placing third in both events. She continually shaved minutes off her best times in these training-packed months.

“I like the variation of triathlons; even before, I would never do the same workout back to back,” explains Kendra. “It’s humbling, since I still have events where I can challenge myself, like swimming.”

Running can be painful and high-impact when using some kinds of medical prosthetics, but with advances in technology, Kendra now has a prosthesis that includes shock absorption for running.

Prosthetics are complex and expensive to produce, reducing global access to these helpful devices. This year, Kendra became a Global Mobility Ambassador for the organization Penta Medical Recycling, which recycles components of medical prosthetics to help individuals all over the world get fitted with personalized recycled prosthetics to increase their mobility and independence.

“I saw the videos of Penta giving these devices to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them free of cost, and their lives completely change,” says Kendra. “I knew I had to be all about it.”

Kendra believes her faith has helped her manage her busy family life, her teaching career and the demanding training regimen of a high-profile athlete.

“I think there’s a bigger purpose out there for all of this,” says Kendra. “I don’t even know who all I’ve helped and inspired, but I know this is where I’m supposed to be.”

  • Photo by Matthew Long Photography
  • Photo by Olivia Duncan
  • Photo by Olivia Duncan