Running with a purpose

For many people, being an amputee would put severe limitations on their life, but it hasn’t slowed Jessica Heims, who was recently named Female High School Field Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Paralympics.

Jessica Heims

“The Paralympics have given me a world of opportunities,” said Jessica. “I have traveled to places in the world that I didn't even know existed, and I have met so many friends with lives so much different than my own.”

Jessica, a freshman biology major, was born with a rare defect called amniotic banding. This affected both her and her twin sister, because some of the amniotic sacs between them were tangled and cut off circulation to their bodies. For Jessica, it meant the loss of her right leg, which was not able to form properly. Her parents made the difficult decision to amputate the part of the leg that was not functional.

Despite being born with what some would perceive to be a disadvantage, Jessica has never let it stop her from pursuing her dreams.

At a young age, those dreams were of going to the Olympics. She became involved with track, and fell in love with the competition. Jessica competed in the 400m race and discus, and was driven to compete at the highest level. It was then that she discovered Paralympics. This is a sister game to the Olympics, that consists of almost all the same or equivalent sports, including track, basketball and swimming.

“The Paralympics have given me a world of opportunities,” said Jessica. “I have traveled to places in the world that I didn't even know existed, and I have met so many friends with lives so much different than my own.”

For Jessica, being named Female High School Field Athlete of the Year was an incredible honor and the culmination of her outstanding performances at all of the 2017 track meets.

"I have been working through the All-American list the last four years, so this was the best way to end my high school career and transition into college,” said Jessica.

In addition to being recognized, she also competed in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio. While there, she collected a gold medal after throwing 27.47 meters in women’s discus. Team U.S.A. brought home a total of 36 medals at the event.

Although her life has not been easy, Jessica has made the best of her situation and is showing people everywhere that you do not need two legs to achieve your dream. She continues to train five days a week, running and lifting three days and then throwing at least two days. Her dedication to the sport shines through, even in the offseason.

“Every person finds themselves in ruts, but I have been able to get through my own by knowing that there is a greater plan to live out,” said Jessica. “I can't change everything, so I just try to focus on what I can, and deal with everything as it comes.

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