Junior Jadelynn Kendall Finds New Confidence Through Air Rifle Team
At first glance, Jadelynn Kendall looks like any other member of an air rifle team. She carries her equipment into the range, sets up her gear and takes the firing line, just like all of the other members of her Marion High School Army JROTC sporter rifle team. Only her second year in the sport, she’s still learning the ropes.
“I’ve always been nervous to try new things,” she said.
Despite her fears, the 15-year-old from Indiana has come a long way. Her high school years were preceded by days of hardships and growth, but her teammates and those around her have helped to give her the confidence to stand strong – both on the leg she was born with and on the prosthetic she conceals beneath her clothing.
When she was only five years old, Jadelynn’s leg was damaged in a horrific accident. Doctors and nurses worked hard to save it, but they were unsuccessful. They had to amputate. The loss of part of her body and the addition of a new prosthetic leg to fill the void left young Jadelynn in a new world of both physical and emotional struggles.
She joined her JROTC air rifle team through a bit of happenstance and the compassion of a leader within the school who is driven to reveal the true potential of all of his students.
While out playing for Cadet Challenge, a physical fitness test for students in the program, an instructor pulled her to the side and asked her about her leg. According to Jadelynn, he said to her, “Well, why aren’t you on my air rifle team team?” She found that she didn’t really have an answer, so she listened to what he had to say.
The man was Lt. Col. David Farlow – coach of the JROTC air rifle team. He recognized Jadelynn’s strong disposition, and, without hesitation, knew that he wanted her courage to be a fixture on his team.
He explained their first meeting, saying, “When I mentioned it to her, she said, ‘I have a prosthetic leg,’ and I said, ‘So? Don’t let it be an excuse.’ And she took the challenge.”
He went on, “I don’t believe in limitations. Shooting is a sport that she can shoot in and do well. She can overcome the adversity that she has.”
Since then, Jadelynn has flourished as a member of the air rifle team. She has made new friends and loves traveling to different areas of the country from match to match.
Jadelynn’s newfound confidence has even made her more open to talking about her amputated leg, cracking jokes about about it with her teammates.
“We like to think that JROTC at our school, it’s a family. And, family doesn’t necessarily always get along, but family sticks together,” said Lt. Col. Farlow. “And so, we stick together. She has a leavening affect on our team. She’s just a gentle spirit.”
Her will has allowed her to learn quickly in the three-position air rifle sport. She admits that the standing position has been difficult for her, especially with a recent knee surgery on her good leg that left her unable to perform the kneeling position during JROTC Regionals at Camp Perry in February. But, with fortitude, she still competed – firing in the standing position twice instead.
“It takes a lot of practice to shoot,” Jadelynn said. “It’s something you really have to work at to be able to do.”
Along with intense effort and practice, Jadelynn knows a reliable coach is essential for success. With his down-to-earth rapport with his athletes and his ability to really listen to them, Jadelynn confessed that her coach is an impressive figure in her life who has helped her to reach where she is today.
“He’s so funny, and he cares about his cadets. He treats you well,” she said. “He does funny things, and it makes us laugh. He’ll always make you feel better when you’re in a bad mood.”
Farlow said he’s going to try to move her into precision next year, when she’s a junior. If she likes it, she can keep moving up in her abilities and maybe even one day join the Paralympics.