HOWLAND - Jenna Fesemyer considers herself able-bodied.
Her activities solidify that statement.
The Southeast High School sophomore-to-be was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency, which means the hip is deformed and the leg shortened. In Fesemyer's case, she was born without a left leg.
She throws the discus during track and field season, and plays golf, volleyball and basketball. She's considering soccer and golf this fall and will train - but not compete - as a cross-country runner.
"I'm an able-bodied athlete," Fesemyer said.
Dr. John Billock, Executive/Clinical Director of Orthotics & Prosthetics Rehabilitation Engineering Centre in Howland, first fitted Fesemyer with a prosthetic leg when she was 2 years old.
Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo
Jenna Fesemyer, left, gives Chagrin Falls coach and OATCCC U.S. Paralympics liaison Dave Kirk, right, a high-five Monday in Howland. Also pictured are, from left, Dr. John Billock, Jean Pasini and Jonathan Fesemyer.
"She's always been a very active young lady and always challenged us when she was young, keeping up with growth," Billock said. "She has a very different situation because she doesn't have a hip joint even though she has a prosthesis that's above the knee. Even running and walking without a hip joint is a challenge unto itself, but she's taken that challenge and moved on with it."
About two weeks ago, Billock fitted Fesemyer with a new running prosthetic leg, which was provided by a donation by National O&P at Ossur Americas manager Jim Hovan. It is called the Ossur Flex-Run Foot with Nike Sole.
"It felt like there were 500 springs in my foot," Fesemyer said. "It feels like it has so much energy in it. Now that I'm able to load it up and start sprinting with it, it's made a total difference in my walking and running."
Jean Pasini, an associate staff prosthetist with Billock, said Fesemyer's running prosthetic has very few limitations.
"She has a high-activity knee," Pasini said. "She has a lot of hydraulic fluid in it, special cooling fins in it. It'll cool down as she exert more on it. She's taking her athletics to another level."
Fesemyer, although, can't do the long jump, but can run in a downpour.
"She'll be OK," Pasini said. "She can't submerge it. She does have to stay out of the sand. It gets a little gritty in the joints.
"She's always wanted to run, now she can."
Last month, she went on a whirlwind tour as a part of the Ohio High School Athletic Association's announcement that 100-, 400-, 800-meter wheelchair races, along with the shot put, are part of next year's OHSAA state track and field championships.
The top eight fully-automatic times during the regular season, through the conference meets, and distances around the state will compete in each of the four events at the 2013 state meet.
Fesemyer has to get used to competing in an aerodynamic, competitive wheelchair on the track because she's used to running on her leg and prosthesis. She competed with the regular competitors at this year's Division II Salem District meet in the discus.
"I'm going to have to do some core workouts, cardio," Fesemyer said. "Did I mention core? It's going to be different than what a runner or thrower might have to do to prepare themselves. You can't avoid training because you're not going to make it. It's just something you have to. It's not a choice. If you want to be in the state meet or you want to be first, then you have to train. You have to start now. There are kids that have been working at this and I'm new, so I don't have as much experience. I'm behind and I need to start training now to get up and qualify for the state meet."
Fesemyer is a discus thrower by trade, but has thrown the shot put. She'll just get used to throwing from a wheelchair.
"I did shot put when I was in seventh grade," she said. "I know how to throw it. I just need to train my arms a little bit more. I have arms like a discus thrower."
She went to the recent U.S. Paralympic Trials in Indianapolis to show off her new left leg. Fesemyer even got to run a cool-down lap with 2008 100-meter gold medalist April Holmes, who is the world's fastest amputee. She holds the world records in the 100, 200 and 400.
"I've experienced a whole different environment," Fesemyer said. "It's great to have around. These people I'll know for the rest of my life. I've hooked up with them on Facebook. I've got their numbers. This experience is something I can carry on forever. I can look back when I was older and say, 'That was me.' "
Chagrin Falls boys track coach Dave Kirk, who is the Ohio Association of Track and Cross County coaches District 2 representative, which covers Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties, and the liaison for OATCCC to the U.S. Paralympics, said Fesemyer, and others like her in Ohio, have the opportunity to make state.
"You have a group you're trying to reach out to - kids who have amputations through congenital issues. We have a lot of kids with trauma - accidents, disease and even Cerebral palsy," Kirk said.
Fesemyer not only has her sights set on next year's state meet, but the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro as well.
"She's got four years," Kirk said. "That could be an event for her. How hard do you want to work? How much do you want to put into it? There's a dedication factor I think she's got."
"I love to swim, but I haven't been into biking just yet. That's one thing I haven't got down," Fesemyer said.
Back at Southeast, Jenna's mother, Cindy, who is the Pirates' girls cross country and track and field coach, said she hopes what her daughter is doing can help other get involved in track and field.
"Trying to find some others in our school that could benefit from this as well," Cindy said.
As for Jenna, she just wants to compete just like everyone else.
"I don't look at it as I'm different," she said. "I just do my best and the best is sometimes enough. Then I go back if I need work and I always need work. It's means the same to me as it means to anybody else."