Making a splash

It’s 6 a.m., and the swim team has already started the day in the weight room for morning lifting.

After a few classes, lunch, and then another class, the team makes its way to the pool for practice. Once practice is over, some members of the team have night class, which means they won’t be returning to their rooms till after 9 p.m. After the physically and mentally exhausting day, it’s time for homework, and finally sleep. And then the cycle starts over again.

That’s a typical day for a swimmer at the University of Indianapolis, including Dalton Herendeen, a freshman from Elkhart, Indiana. But Dalton’s not your typical swimmer. Dalton lost part of his left leg at birth as a result of a blood clot. The doctors were unable to determine exactly what caused the clot, which turned his leg black and blue. Dalton’s parents were forced to choose: try to have the blood clot removed—a risk that could have fatal results—or have the leg amputated instead, just below the knee.

Water levels the playing field

At the age of eight, Dalton decided he wanted to try sports. His dad signed him up for every possible sport, including swimming.

“I wasn’t too good at swimming at first,” Dalton recalls. But he loved the sport. “In the water, I was on even ground with everybody.”

He buckled down to focus on swimming, and his abilities in the water began to grow. It was during his freshman year at Concord Community High School that he was introduced to Paralympics competition. After getting a taste of competition against other talented athletes, Dalton set his sights on the Paralympics, with the goal of participating in the London 2012 games. With that ambitious goal in mind, he had to focus and train harder. He went on to compete in international swim meets, winning gold medals at the 2011 Parapan American Games in Colombia and both gold and silver at an international meet in Athens.

Top 10 lists

At UIndy, Dalton competes in distance freestyle events and finished the season in the top 10 lists for two of his three events. He placed 8th in the mile in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Dalton credits UIndy’s swim team and coach Gary Kinkead for helping him develop. His coach is a fan.

“Dalton’s a solid contributor to the team in the pool and in the classroom, his work ethic is incredible, and he’s an inspiration to everyone around him,” Kinkead says. “Dalton is a pleasure to be around and definitelykeeps me on my toes!”

Along with the training equipment, pool, and the practices prepared by Kinkead, Dalton finds the support from friends and the staff to help him prepare for June’s trials.

“It makes it easier for me to give it my all with all the support from UIndy and the resources that they provide to me,” he says. “I love the swim program here.”

An exercise science major, Dalton plans to continue his education by studying physical therapy. When looking for colleges, in fact, he chose UIndy because it had a successful swimming program and outstanding physical therapy program. He balances demands of academics and athletics with the help of his professors. With his heavy schedule, Dalton sometimes has to miss class. But his professors have been more than supportive, he says, letting him turn in assignments early and help him make up material he’s missed. Dalton wants to work in a career in orthopedics, using his experience with prosthetics to help kids facing the same sorts of challenges. He’s already helping kids by teaching swim lessons and doing some motivational speaking. Dalton had received a tremendous amount of support from the Shriners Hospital in Chicago, so to give back, he goes to Shriners’ events to talk to the donors about how their decisions change lives—like his.

Out of the pool

When he’s not too busy swimming or studying, Dalton enjoys his free time on campus. One of his favorite things is just hanging out with the guys on his floor in Warren Hall. He coaches his floor’s intramural football team, too, though the NCAA doesn’t allow him to play since he’s a Division II athlete. As Dalton strolls around campus, he looks like any other UIndy Greyhound, and most of his fellow students don’t even realize that he has a prosthetic leg.

“If I wear jeans or pants, people have no idea whatsoever,” he says.

And Dalton maintains a positive atti-tude as he prepares to compete on the world stage.

“When I go to the Paralympics, it reminds me how I am not disabled, because there are a lot of people worse off than me. I always remember how lucky I am.”

 —Jennifer Meadows ’14