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PHS Alum Competes in Tokyo Olympics

PHS Alum Competes in Tokyo Olympics

Published: 08/24/2021

David Kendziera, a Prospect High School Graduate, can officially call himself an Olympian. He competed in the men's 400-meter hurdles at the 2021 Tokyo Games and finished 12th in the world.

Kendziera secured his spot on the U.S. track and field Olympic team for the 400-meter hurdles in Eugene, Oregon this past June. He earned his ticket to Tokyo after finishing in 3rd place in the trials.

“It didn’t strike me that I made the team,” said Kendziera, “It was more of a surreal feeling where I was like, ‘okay, cool,’ I finished 3rd.” 

As a senior at Prospect in 2013, he was state champion in the 300-meter hurdles and second-place finisher in the 110-meter hurdles. He still holds the school records in those two events: 300-meter hurdles (37.28) and the 110-meter hurdles (14.08). 

The 26-year-old currently lives and trains in North Carolina, but has family that still lives in Mount Prospect. He comes back to Prospect every year to speak to the track team to inspire them. In addition to the support from his family and friends, Kendziera said he felt so much love from his hometown.

“Whether I did know them or not, I could just feel the excitement from them that they were so excited for me to go on and try this part of my journey,” said Kendziera.

Traveling around the world for meets is not anything new for Kendziera, however, Tokyo was unlike anywhere else he’s been before. 

“My jaw was dropped the entire time. I was surprised by everything the whole time… this is the Olympics,” said Kendziera. 

Kendziera’s first goal for his time in Tokyo was to survive an event: get into the zone, run a great race and make it to another round. And he did just that.  

He made it through the first round and went on to race in the semi-finals. Of the four heats of the semi-finals, only the top two finishers make it to the final round. Kendziera finished in third and unfortunately didn't qualify, but he earned the title of the 12th fastest 400-meter hurdler in the world.  

“When we were both [his coach] at the warmup track, we would look around and you know there’s no donkeys, you know, no bad athletes. It's the top athletes in the world of track and field. It definitely gave me a new perspective for what I need to continue doing,” he said.

As for what's next, this Olympian has his eyes set on the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. Being among the best of the best sets the tone for his upcoming and continuous practices, but also the 2022 World Championship in Oregon and the 2023 World Championships. 

Working on his hurdling technique, speed and strength, Kendziera and his coach are fired up for what is to come in the next few years. Not making it through to the finals in Tokyo is the drive for his new Olympic dream.

“It lit a new fire in my body that I want to make that final next year, and I have 3 years to work towards this goal again, 3 years to work towards the 2024 Paris Olympics and make that final.” 

Contributor's note: Prospect High School senior Maeve Molina produced this story as part of a Multimedia Apprenticeship with District 214's Community Engagement and Outreach team.