Rewinding back to the year 2011, a young girl in the eighth grade by the name of Katrina Gerhard started to experience a strong amount of chronic pain within her back. After years of misdiagnoses, Gerhard came to realize that she contained genetic progressive disease, which ultimately would land her within a wheelchair.
During her Sophmore year at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School, Katrina tried to do what no others with a similar condition could imagine accomplishing: To compete on the track team.
At first, Katrina expressed that she would endure track as a method of staying in shape, but later on, she found it as a healthy outlet of competition. For her upcoming passion, Gerhard went out of her way to build an elite support staff to surround her.
“I found a coach who could really help me. His name is Jimmy Cuevas, and he’s one of the Team USA coaches,” Gerhard noted. “It was cool to suddenly have a community around me, and to have a sport that I was pretty good at right off the bat.”
With the necessary training and overwhelming support, Gerhard was able to complete a mile in a mere 4:20, as well as contain the ability to complete a full marathon in just 2:01:58.
A list of Gerhard’s accomplishments include the following:
- Track Captain for the 2014-2015 winter and spring seasons at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School
- 2nd in the Falmouth Road Race 2014 and 2015
- 1st in the Boston Half Marathon 2014
- 1st in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, 5000m, pentathlon, shotput, discus, and javelin at the National Junior Disability Championships 2014 and 2015
- 1st in the 100m, 200m, 400m, and 5000m at the Junior World Games 2015 in Stadskanaal, Netherlands. Representing the USA.
- 7th in the Chicago Marathon 2015
- 4th in the NYC Half Marathon 2016
After her graduation from high school in the spring of 2015, Gerhard landed herself a secured spot into the University of Illinois. She currently is interested in committing to a medical profession, although she is not closed to the idea of pursuing racing as an eventual occupation.
“I will keep racing and trying to get to the highest level of competition as I can. If that means that I’m doing it professionally, then I will, but it is not my career goal. I want to go to medical school and become a physician,” Gerhard stated.
“Right now, I’m interested in surgery, but we’ll see where I’m at eight years from now. In the end, academics would take precedence, but I will hopefully always do wheelchair racing, for fun if nothing else.”
At the end of the day, there have been multiple individuals in the Massachusetts community that view Katrina Gerhard as an inspiration, and even as a role model. Gerhard on the other hand, has remained humble in what she has already accomplished.
“I don’t really see myself as an inspiration. I think I get labeled as one a lot, but I also feel like most people with disabilities are called inspirations regardless of what they do,” Gerhard said jokingly.
“I think it can sometimes sound condescending. Other times, people genuinely mean that I am a role model for them, and that I’ve inspired them to make a positive change in their life. In that case, I’m really honored to be that role model.”
What’s next for Gerhard? In April, she will be taking part in the 2016 Boston Marathon. She will also have some track races around the country this summer, as well as a handful of other marathons. In addition, Katrina will be voyaging to Prague with the Junior Team USA for the World Games.