CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) — Whether it’s on the track or in the discus ring, UNI’s Jess Heims is exactly where she wants to be.
“I started track when I was about 10 years old because my older sister started running and I always wanted to be just like her,” says Heims, “So, I started running at the same time she did, and I started to love it.”
Now the Panther sophomore competes against the best in the world, and the fact that she’s missing the lower half of her right leg below the knee hasn’t slowed her down. UNI throws coach Dan O’Mara says it’s all due to determination.
“Jess is probably the hardest working girl I’ve ever had. She’s very determined,” says O’Mara, “She focuses on what I tell her to focus on and she can change things every easily.”
That’s led to big things. The Cedar Rapids Prairie graduate secured two top ten finishes in the discus and 400 meters at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.
“It was incredible, one of the best experiences of my life so far,” she says.
Then a week and a half ago she fired the discus over 105 feet while competing at the MUSCO Twilight Meet in Iowa City. That distance set a new world record in the para-athlete f-64 category, which means the athlete has a prosthetic below the knee. That’s where she now ranks above everyone else in the world.
“I didn’t know it until they called it,” Heims recalls, “I knew it was a fairly decent distance, but it was exciting when they called it and coach reminded me that it was a good mark. It was a record mark. It was exciting.”
Even more exciting she says is the chance to break it again in international competitions this year. It all leads up to the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games and a chance to reach the medal stand which slips in to her mind fairly often.
“About every other night, yeah. I like to think about it.”