From Newman Hall to Team USA and the Paralympic Games for Jenna Fesemyer

Jenna Fesemyer, former resident director of Newman Hall at St. John's Catholic Newman Center in Champaign, displays the medals she earned while qualifying for Team USA at the Paralympic Trials June 17-20 in Minneapolis. (Provided photo)

CHAMPAIGN — The former resident director of Newman Hall at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center here will soon be on her way to Tokyo as part of Team USA competing in the Paralympic Games.

“I feel so honored to be able to represent the USA in Tokyo this August,” Jenna Fesemyer told The Catholic Post on Monday after qualifying in three events June 17-20 during the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials in Minneapolis.

Fesemyer competes and excels in all distances of wheelchair racing, from sprint to marathons. She is seen here with medals earned at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru. (Provided photo)

A native of Ravenna, Ohio, Fesemyer lived at Newman Hall as a student while working toward her 2019 University of Illinois degree in kinesiology and communication. She entered the Catholic Church on Divine Mercy Sunday of 2017, a week after her RCIA classmates because she was taking part in the Boston Marathon that Easter weekend.

She later became resident director, but stepped down from that position this spring to pursue her goal of making the Tokyo team.

“I owe a lot of my success to the support I’ve received during my time at St. John’s Newman Center,” said Fesemyer, who was born without a left leg and hip socket because of a rare congenital disease and is now a world class wheelchair athlete.

“It takes a village to become an Olympian,” she continued, “and I can confidently say that my faith and the support I’ve received from the staff and students at St. John’s have been instrumental in this journey.” Fesemyer specially credits the guidance of her “direct leader and mentor,” Tristan Pisarczyk, director of operations and finance at the Newman Center.


In Tokyo, Fesemyer will compete in the 1,500 meter, 5,000 meter, and marathon races in the T54 category, one of several classifications for people with health conditions that cause impairments. She finished in third place in both the 1,500 and 5,000 races in Minneapolis. She also raced in two shorter distances at the trials, finishing fourth in the 800 meters and fifth in the 400 meters.

While the Newman and University of Illinois communities will be among the fans cheering her on — she is one of several U of I-based athletes to qualify for Tokyo — Fesemyer races for more than medals and glory.

“Glorifying Christ comes first, always,” she told The Catholic Post in a 2019 interview. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t look to Christ in my times of need or doubt. When we turn to Christ, our joys are multiplied.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Click here to read The Catholic Post’s 2019 feature on Jenna Fesemyer.


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