When DePaul track and field star Noelle DeJaynes was an eighth grader in downstate Decatur, one of her friends asked her if she’d be willing to try the sport.
“I said ‘okay, I’ll join you.’ I knew I wasn’t going to run, so I said I’d try throwing,” she said. “And from that minute, I was like ‘this is the best sport I’ve ever been a part of.’”
Half a decade later, the 19-year-old is on scholarship at DePaul, throwing a 20-pound weight and an eight-and-a-half pound shot put.
And she does it with one hand.
Because of amniotic band syndrome while she was in utero, DeJaynes’ right arm ends at her wrist, but she's never let that stand in the way of her dreams of athletic stardom.
“Being born like this, I’ve never known how to do it any other way, so it’s not difficult for me to learn how to adapt,” she said. “It’s just like ‘oh, how am I going to do this,’ and you adapt with the first way you learn how to do anything.”
Brandon Murer, the throwing coach on DePaul’s track and field team, says that DeJaynes’s work ethic is the key to her athletic success.
“Most of the kids we bring in have a really good work ethic, but Noelle is above and beyond a lot of the kids I’ve ever seen,” he said. “She won’t stop even when you ask her to, and she just wants to be the best.”
DeJaynes also gets plenty of support from her parents, who encouraged her to always strive to be her best no matter what obstacles life threw in her way.
“My mom and dad were both encouraging about what I wanted to do, helping me figure out how to do things differently,” she said. “Because of that support, I’ve been able to do everything I want to.”
With that support and that drive, DeJaynes is hoping to accomplish big things for the Blue Demons this season.
“I definitely want to win conference,” she said. “I want our team to win conference consistently, and I want to finish in the top few at nationals by the time I’m a senior. I think that’d be fun.”