Rewind back to the year 2011, a young girl in eighth grade named Katrina Gerhard started to experience a strong amount of chronic pain within her back. After years of misdiagnoses, Katrina found out she had genetic progressive disease, ultimately landing her in a wheelchair.
During her Sophmore year of high school, Katrina tried to do what no other individual has done in Massachusetts before; compete on the track team in a wheelchair.
At first, Katrina expressed that she would endure track in order to stay fit, but then found it as a competitive sport later on. She even found the perfect coach.
“I found a coach who could really help me. His name is Jimmy Cuevas, he’s one of the Team USA coaches but he also runs a junior team out of New Jersey. It was cool to suddenly have a community and to have a sport that I was pretty good at right off the bat.”
With the necessary training and support, Gerhard was able to complete a mile in 4:20, as well as marathon in 2:01.58.
A list of Katrina’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
Ever since high school ended for Katrina in 2015, she landed herself a 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 doing racing as an 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, the I will, but it is not my career goal. I want to go to medical school and become a physician. Right now I’m interested in surgery, but we’ll see where I’m at in 8 years. 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 as an inspiration, even a role model. Katrina on the other hand, remains humble in what she does.
“I don’t really see myself as an inspiration. I think I get labelled as one a lot, but I also feel like most people with disabilities are called inspirations regardless of what they do. I think it can sometimes sound condescending. But 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 Katrina? Coming up on April 18th, 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 couple other marathons. Also, Katrina will be going to Prague with the Junior Team USA for the World Games.