The Daily Illini

Kendziera reflects on career, prepares to race pros

David+Kendziera+competes+in+his+final+NCAA+championship+where+he+finished+12th+in+the+semifinals.
David Kendziera competes in his final NCAA championship where he finished 12th in the semifinals.

David Kendziera competes in his final NCAA championship where he finished 12th in the semifinals.

Photo courtesy of Illinois Athletics

Photo courtesy of Illinois Athletics

David Kendziera competes in his final NCAA championship where he finished 12th in the semifinals.

By Jared Farmer, Staff Writer

Senior David Kendziera has won countless hurdle races, but this past weekend’s victory was one of his most emotional.

It was senior night at the Illinois Twilight meet, and Kendziera was one of the 19 seniors who were honored by the Illinois track and field team in their last meet at home.

“It was a good experience,” Kendziera said. “I felt like Saturday was a good day for me to give back and say thank you to my coaches. It was nice to be recognized by them, and I’m glad I was able to give back and say thank you.”

The meet hallmarked an undefeated season in hurdles so far and extended his win streak to seven races.

Kendziera joined the team back in 2014 and has been one of the main contributors for the Illini ever since. He’s currently a seven-time All-American, an NCAA Championship Bronze medalist in both 110-meter hurdles and 400-meter hurdles, a Big Ten 400-meter hurdle champion, and qualified for the Olympic Trials back in 2016.

On top of those accomplishments, he was a member of the school record-setting 4×400-meter relay team (3:06.58) and has the second-fastest times for each hurdle race in Illini history.

“I would say that I’m glad I chose the opportunity to run here,” Kendziera said. “I have no regrets. I 100 percent made the right choice going here. Saturday was just a way that of feeling all of that and thinking about all we’ve accomplished.”

Although this will be his final season with the team, Kendziera is planning on competing beyond college.

“While I do want to keep running post-grad, I want to finish out my graduate’s degree,” Kendziera said. “I’d also come back and train with the team or help out with the team any way I could.”

Kendziera intends on finishing his career strong in both 110-meter and 400-meter hurdles, but he doesn’t want to put too much focus on one event at the expense of the other. With the help of sprint coach Adrian Wheatley, Kendziera has continued to dominate in both races this season.

“I would say one of the big steps I have to take to go pro is to decide which of the two events I’d choose if I wanted to continue to run after college,” Kendziera said. “I’d choose one because professionally, I don’t think I would be able to do both.”

Kendziera will have a big test this weekend when the Illini compete in the Mt. SAC Relays, Beach Invite and Bryan Clay Invite in California.

“Really I just want to make sure I’m on my A-game for every event I race, and that I have enough recovery for everything,” Kendziera said. “I thought I could do it last year, but they ended up taking me out of the 4×400. I thought I could’ve done it, but in hindsight, I wasn’t as prepared as I am now.”

Among the competition for Kendziera, this weekend is Bershawn Jackson and Aries Merritt, an Olympic Bronze and Silver Medalist in the 400-meter hurdles and 110-meter hurdles respectively.

“Those guys are amazing athletes, so it’s going to be cool running up against professionals like them, and some of the other top hurdlers in the NCAA,” Kendziera said. “But I’m just going to get out there, focus on running my race, and then I’ll see where I stack up with competition like that.”

@jaredefarmer

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