When Penn Manor’s Wes Kendig won a bronze medal in the Third District Class 3A Swimming Championships with a 51.87 time in the 100-yard butterfly, it was a solid high school career in style.
But his achievement was so much more.
It also highlighted Kendig’s incredible ability to overcome obstacles of epic proportions.
“It felt really good,” he said of his race. “I didn’t really expect that I would do so well as the season progressed. We couldn’t really be in the pool that much and couldn’t be in our pool in the beginning. “
Of course, what Kendig had already overcome during his cometary career could make COVID-19 and his enforced training delays seem minor.
Kendig suffers from type 1 diabetes, which went undetected until the Christmas break of his first season. It’s something that nearly ended his swimming career – and his life – prematurely.
His parents, Brandon and Cathi Kendig, noticed that their son was more tired than he should be. Wes slept most of the time. Something didn’t seem right, so he was tested for several diseases. It was found that his body had stopped making insulin – that’s when things got really worrying.
Wes Kendig’s blood sugar already soared to the hospital and rose to 1,800. Considering the normal level is around 100, this became a very dangerous situation. The next thing he knew he was in an ambulance going from Lancaster General to the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital.
The severity of his condition caused cerebral swelling, and things were tender to the touch, especially during the first three days in the intensive care unit at CHOP.
Brandon Kendig said being an athlete could have saved his son’s life.
“His heart rate was so high. Because he was in shape by swimming, he kept him alive, ”he said. “His heart rate was elevated for a long time.”
Penn Manor trainer Eric Urban remembered his first year with the Comets and heard about the situation from Wes’ sister Jordyn.
“I just thought I hope he’s fine, but when I heard he was at CHOP, I thought it had to be pretty serious,” said Urban. “He was a newbie so he has had time to grow in the sport, but it’s his health that matters.”
After seven days at CHOP, Wes Kendig returned home and prepared for a lifetime of physical awareness.
“Once they got that under control, it was educational. It’s something he’ll have to live with for the rest of his life, ”said Brandon Kendig.
“The biggest thing is that I can change it so that I do all I can,” said Wes Kendig. “I can’t go around doing things. I have to plan every meal and that makes it harder, especially when I’m rushing around. “
Not only does Kendig check his blood sugar several times a day, he also injects insulin eight times a day before he eats.
Taking on a teenager, even a high school graduate, is a huge responsibility. However, his mother is quick to credit Kendig for taking care of everything from diet to recordings.
“Thankfully, he eats a lot of the same foods and he’s good at his math for balancing the carbohydrates and sugars,” she said. “Every time he tests, he’s found out what he can do.”
Even with precautionary measures, things can sometimes get out of whack, especially with a heavy swim workout. Kendig has his food ready.
In fact, Urban said Kendig would swim to the end of the pool, jump out of the water, put some fruit snacks or reeses in his mouth, and jump right back into the water.
Amazingly, Kendig returned to the pool later in the first season and qualified for the championship in the Lancaster-Lebanon League.
“I knew he had it, knew it was a problem, but he never made it a problem,” said Urban. “He is very mature for his age. He’s kind of a realist. He wanted to get back to normal. In the four years I’ve known him, he never mentioned anything about it. “
Urban said that Kendig stood out in the water, not just for what he had overcome.
“Of all the swimmers I’ve coached at Penn Manor in the past four years, he’s one of the strongest swimmers I’ve ever seen,” said the coach. “He’s just strength, strength and endurance in the water, especially when you consider what he’s been through. He never used it as a crutch and I always admired that. “
For the past three seasons, Kendig has qualified for the third district meeting, which was crowned with the 2021 bronze medal that almost earned him a big place at the PIAA championships next weekend.
At home, Brandon and Cathi Kendig watched the livestream in the Cumberland Valley and knew their son’s butterfly swim was something special, especially on the third of four runs.
“The way they shot videos and the announcement made it a lot nicer to try and follow,” said Brandon. “We followed his time and saw how it fit in with the last run. We’re really proud of him for doing what he did. “
“Right after he touched the wall, he saw his time and it was the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on Wes,” said Urban. “It was his last swim in high school. It was a great end to his career. I’m glad he achieved what he wanted. “
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