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Kennison chases dream of competing in Paralympics
DASHING — Josh Kennison runs in the 200-meter sprint during the 2012 Paralympic Track & Field Trials in Indianapolis, IN.
PARIS — Josh Kennison's goal has been to compete in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London in August – but his dream is on hold for another four years.
"I tried qualifying a couple weeks ago, but I missed it," explained the 22-year-old athlete who was born with truncated limbs. "The U.S. has standards, and I didn't reach any of them," he said.
Nevertheless, it's not going to discourage him from literally chasing his dream. He said he now knows what to expect.
Until the next Paralympics in 2016, he will be shooting for the annual International Paralympic Committee World Championship. Next summer, it will take place in France.
While it's a step down from the Paralympics, it's still a notch on his belt, he said.
Kennison has been running in track and field since middle school, continuing it through high school and now into college. He is also approaching his third year as the head coach for track and girls soccer at Oxford Hills Middle School.
On top of it all, he's spent the last two-and-a-half years training for the Paralympics, he said.
Since he was introduced to track and field, he's been competing in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter sprints. He also competes in the long jump.
He said that just a few weeks ago, he ran in a 200- and 400-meter race as well as long jumped 5.3 meters – which is equal to just over 17 feet. "It's actually a world record," he said.
"World records can only be set at certain meets ... and for my classification, I have [set] the world record," he explained.
While at trials, he was also awarded a track and field scholarship for Penn State, which he will definitely be taking advantage of next spring, he said. Along with track and field, he said his plan is to study sports management.
His first national meet was in 2010 at the Annual University of Central Oklahoma Endeavor Games in Oklahoma City, OK, where he took home two gold medals and one silver medal from the 100- and 200-meter dash events. That same year, he also took home silver from the U.S. National Paralympics Track Meet.
In 2011, he traveled to Orlando, FL to compete in the 100-meter dash at the Walt Disney World Invitational, where he recorded his fastest time yet. He also competed once in London internationally and took fourth out of eight in the 200-meter, he said.
Kennison continues to participate in as many races as possible – and trains as much as possible – to prepare himself for the 2016 Paralympics.
At least three days a week he weightlifts with his trainer Randy Olson and at least once per day he runs around the track, he said. He also plays soccer for fun and as a way to stay active.
Just last summer, he was blessed with new "running" legs from Hanger Prosthetics, which he said also helped him to pursue his goals of becoming a U.S. paralympian someday.
"My goal is to make the team," he said. In order to do this, he said he is "going to stay a bit more focused, and train a bit harder."
He also plans on taking a trip to Florida to train before school starts, with his friends who formed "Never Say Never," a foundation to help children and young adults with disabilities achieve their dreams.
Born without a jaw or tongue, communication has also been difficult for Kennison, but it hasn't stopped him from motivating others – Kennison has delivered motivational speeches at high schools in Florida and schools throughout Maine.
He says that everywhere he goes, he tells people, "You can do anything you set your mind to, as long as you have the right mind set."
"It's a good experience," he said, of trying out for the Paralympics. "I knew I wasn't going to qualify easily. If I happen to qualify, great. If not – I am only 22. I still have 10 years [of track & field], or maybe more, in me."