Lacey Henderson’s Blog

by Lacey Henderson

May 27, 2013

So a lot has happened in the course of almost two months for me this season.

-I competed at the Mt. SAC relays in California, I was able to watch Jamie Nieto jump, as well as Carmelita Jetter (she's amazing) and Ashton Easton run a few races. It was incredible.
-there, I reached my A qualifications for World Championships, and since then have PRed in the 100m and 200m
-last weekend I competed at the Desert Challenge Games in Mesa, AZ which was a Grand Prix event and tied the American Record for long jump. Hopefully that will qualify me to go to England late this June to compete in the IPC Grand Prix there.

As of now, I'm just really busy balancing training and working and paying bills and living, June will start more travel for me in both work and track and by mid month, I should know if I'll be selected for any international meets this year to represent USA. Wish me luck!!



April 15, 2013

So my free time has been fleeting these days. Currently, I am training in Chula Vista at the Olympic Training Center here working towards this years Paralympic Track and Field World Championships in Lyon, France.

We have been here now for 5 days, and yesterday I competed alongside able body athletes and Team USA Paralympic athletes at the Pamona-Pitzer invitational meet in Claremont, CA. While we were preparing this week, we worked on a lot of things. We had the pros teach us about body compositions, nutrition, and sports psychology for training as well as competing.


After our first meeting, one of the London medalists led us through the USA cheer before we broke off to go to bed.

1, 2, 3


It was absolutely electrifying.  I will never forget that feeling as long as I live.



We have a shake out training session today, with our coach Joaquim Cruz (800m Brazilian olympic world record holder) and a full week of training ahead for the Mt. SAC invitational next weekend. Go USA.






March 21, 2013

With the beginning of the season already in, I feel a little bit like I'm falling behind. Last year, I had struggled a lot with the fit of my sport prosthesis, and while that is (finally) pretty much figured out, I have had a few more obstacles to face.
Well, for starters, I am working A TON. Which makes training a little bit more abstract when you have to travel every week for work. On one of these work trips, I was in Atlanta to instruct some clinicians on new microprocessor technology and while I was working with one of the physical therapists, she figured out something about ME. Turns out, despite training a lot and getting much stronger, I have a twisted rib on my left side, as a result of having a feeding tube when I was on chemo. 14 years later, we are finally connecting recent pain in my to this same tissue that is attached to my ribs. So after already two straight weeks of travel, I am going back to Atlanta at the end of March for intense sports therapy to hopefully fix my rib, and study some more of amputee running mechanics with the pros at the Children's Hospital of Atlanta. I'm mostly excited, because despite a few other (key) things I need to work on, especially for pole vault (like not slowing down at the box) this should help me and my over all strength pushing the pole into the box, as well as maintaining form during the later phases of my 100m and 200m sprints. So despite there literally not being enough time in the day, I'm excited.
One thing that high school and definitely college sports has taught me, is the importance of time management. My dad, always used to tell me when I was growing up about O.P.S. which stands for 
You need to stay organized and on top of everything so no ball ever gets dropped, or that you ever feel like you've put too much on your plate (which sometimes, I feel like I'm really good at doing). You should prioritize those things that need to get done immediately, or that will take the most time or hold the most importance to you. And most importantly, you need to sacrifice, which is probably most difficult. I am someone who loves to stay up late watching movies with my room mate, sleep in, and check my Facebook every five minutes, but there comes a time where you need to rearrange some of those habits so you can get the important tasks in your life done. I'm going through my own OPS transitioning now, which is annoying and difficult, but it needs to be done in order to not only be successful in track, but also as a professional, and even as a friend.
So I have my new outdoor season schedule, I talk to my coach daily when I'm out of town and we figure out the best work outs I can do with what I have around me. Right now, the most important thing on my priority list is my health. This rib thing was a total curve ball, but I've learned from an early age the curve balls are just what keep life interesting. As I'm writing this, I'm on the plane to another work week in Los Angeles, which will be awesome, but I still need to take care of the things I can control. After these weeks, I have very exciting things to report...  I have been invited for a second time now to train for 10 days at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California for track. There I will compete in two meets, one including the Mt. SAC relays (which are invitation only) which will have many present and future Olympians competing.
It's a busy life, but someone has got to live it!

March 6, 2013

First and foremost, I would like to thank David Mitchell from NSAF asking me to contribute to the website. I met him just a few weeks ago at the 2013 Simplot Games at Idaho State University while I was showcasing pole vault along with a few of the alumni and current athletes during an exhibition period. World record holder and Olympian, Stacy Dragila and I both were interviewed by David as pioneers of elite level pole vault. (See story and video interview)


My story is not only unique by the fact that I recently started my career in the world of track in field in the late spring of 2011, but by the fact that despite growing up being an athlete, I did it all with a prosthetic leg.

My dad is extremely involved in the world of track and field, he competed in the 1968 Olympic trials for pole vault after college, and has been asked numerous times to coach college and Olympic teams over the years. Despite his love of the sport, almost to the point of neurosis, his passion laid in the development of high school athletes. So, growing up, my brother Trax (my middle name is Fields, if that explains what crazy person I was raised by...) and I were always around and working out with high school athletes at pole vault or speed camps. By the age of 9, I had developed a considerable amount of speed and was shaping out to be a pretty impressive little sprinter. The summer going into the fourth grade, I had a coach that started noticing that I was limping in my runs. I was mortified and didn't want to be called out, and kind of downplayed that my leg had been hurting me off and on. I started school, and my leg continued to get worse. I was always doing some kind of sport, so my family and I just assumed I was sore from some work out, and never really gave this constant pain in my leg a second thought.

We were forced to reconsider when teachers were calling my parents asking why I wasn't putting weight into my right leg, and why I didn't want to participate in gym class as much as I had earlier in the year. When I mentioned the pain in my leg again, my mom felt behind my knee and felt two grape-sized lumps. After x-rays, MRIs, and a few misdiagnoses, doctors discovered a light bulb sized tumor caged inside of my knee cap. A biopsy concluded that I had a soft tissue malignant tumor called Synovial Sarcoma, an extremely rare form of cancer with virtually no survival rate. I was given an intense experimental chemotherapy protocol. We actually had to stop treatment early because my colon, liver and kidneys were failing due to the intensity of the drugs. Unfortunately, within 4 months, I had no signs of any tumor kill.

At that point, we had two options, which boiled down to save my leg or save my life. May 19, 1999 I had my right leg amputated above the knee. Shortly thereafter, I was fitted with a prosthesis and walking within two months and on the road to health, recovery, and participation in gym class again.

Once I was literally back on "two-feet" I was ready to go back to being an athlete, and my parents never once questioned my abilities. I played basketball, volleyball, soccer, rock climbed, skied, snowboarded, and finally fell in love with the world of cheerleading. I was doing tumbling and clinics before high school, tried out for my high school team (which I find out years later, my parents were in fact terrified that I wouldn't make that team. Rude....) I totally made the team with no problem. We competed nationally, and by senior year, I was captain, all-state with academic honors, and a National Varsity Cheerleader. Despite a few hesitations going into college, I ignored the light recruitment from the University of Denver coach, but the day of last minute fall try outs, with only two spots left on the squad with sixty girls trying out, I gathered up enough courage to try out. I was selected for the team, and received an athletic scholarship at a Division 1 school for cheerleading all four years.

Before graduating, I had begun to volunteer in the amputee community. I realized how blessed my life was, and wanted to give back. Despite my initial thoughts of giving inspiration, I was the one who was inspired by the kids I worked with, and it was them who educated me on adaptive running and Paralympic track. I had never seen running legs before I volunteered with these little kids who were just bouncing everywhere on these springs, running round like wild little crazies, and it was there that the track seed was  re-planted in my head and in my heart.

When I returned to real life, in a typical competitive fashion, my dad and I were debating who was a better athlete between him and myself and why. There, he bet me that I could never learn to pole vault, not even two feet, because I couldn't generate enough speed and I didn't have an adequate knee drive to get inverted to clear a height. Being a gymnast, and a really stubborn person, I accepted the challenge with absolutely no idea on how I was going to do it, I just knew I could. After Googling "amputee pole vault" and getting virtually nothing (just two different men hopping without a prosthesis on to a box and kind of throwing themselves over a bungee) things didn't look too solid on my side, but I just knew I could do it! My coach, a dear friend (and former athlete) of my father’s decided to help me, and the first day, no running leg, I cleared 6 feet.

That day, I knew that I wanted to invest my time and energy in Paralympic track. I can cover the details of my journey later, but the Cliffs-Notes version (do people still use these??!) is that within two years, I became the world record holder for indoor and outdoor men and women's Paralympic pole vault. I am a national champion in the London 2012 trials for the 200m in my category, and a silver medalist in the 100m just behind the American record holder. I have taken a leap of faith, and after finishing school I have pretty much devoted my life to training for the 2016 games in Rio. This year, my focus is selection for the 2013 World Championships team, and represent the United States Paralympic track team in Lyon, France.

I am extremely honored and humbled to have been asked to contribute and share my journey, I hope through some of my life lessons, I can share some wisdom and inspiration for athletes and their families throughout this nutty journey of track and field.

"Take pride in how far you have come, and faith in how far you will go. But don't forget to enjoy the journey." -Michael Josephson



Watch David Mitchell's Interview with Lacey and Stacy Dragila



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