The name Kendra De Jong is well known throughout college athletics in the Midwest. Take a simple glance at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athlete webpage and the Northwestern College sophomore’s name is plastered throughout. In less than two years, De Jong has shown herself to be an impressive basketball and track athlete.
In her first year alone, she acquired basketball accolades ranging from NAIA Great Plains Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year to being placed on the National All-Tournament Team. In track, she placed second at Nationals in high jump and simultaneously became an All-American. For this year’s basketball regular season, she received numerous prestigious awards and was named the GPAC Defensive Player of the Year. Additionally, De Jong has two National Basketball Championships under her young belt, adding to an already impressive résumé.
However, there is more to this young lady than track and basketball. She is a simple farm girl at heart. “If I could pick my ideal day, I would wake up on the farm with the sun shining and start off the day with breakfast with my siblings and my dad. Then we would all go outside and start the day off by taking care of the cattle.”
De Jong lives on 700 acres of farmland, four miles east and two and a half miles north of Hospers, Iowa. The land was originally entrusted to her father Darin De Jong, 44, from his father Bill De Jong of Sheldon. Darin then bought and took over more surrounding land, comprising what he still farms today. Each year, the De Jong farm feeds around 1000 head of cattle, ages 3 to 5 months.
A busy farm this size requires a summer day dedicated solely to mowing. For De Jong, that means starting at 11 a.m. and ending at 9 p.m. “I break to eat during meal times, but otherwise I mow all day long,” she said.
The Northwestern sophomore gives yard work a completely new meaning. “I really enjoy mowing because, while I’m running the riding lawn mower, I can to relax in the sun, get work done and have plenty of time to think,” De Jong said.
Not many people her age would chose a trade of day-long manual labor, but De Jong lives for it. “One of my favorite things about the farm is harvest time when I get to haul loads for my dad.” A smile spreads across her face as she continues talking about her farm duties. “It’s a rush because I have to be in a hurry to get everything done. But at the same time, I have to be very careful because I’m handling huge equipment and machinery that could hurt someone,” she says.
De Jong recognizes the responsibility she possesses and embraces the expectation to rise to the challenge. De Jong is the epitome of maintaining composure and executing under pressure. Spectators can catch a glimpse of this characteristic on the basketball court. Shooting an impressive 58 percent from the field her freshman year and 60 percent this season, she deals with her opponents’ intense defense and scores with confidence.
Want another twist to her story? During the NAIA national basketball tournament less than a week ago, De Jong injured her foot in the semifinal game. The injury altered her role from starting in the championship game to cheering her teammates on from the sidelines. A much-less-than-desirable outcome for a season dedicated to hard work. Yet, Kendra remained cool, calm and collected.
“I knew it was out of my hands. God had a better plan, and I trusted my teammates to get the job done.” Which is exactly what they did. Northwestern defeated unbeaten and top-ranked Davenport of Michigan 88-83 to repeat as National Champions.
“Was it easy to sit and watch my team play without me? Absolutely not. But I knew I had no control over the situation,” De Jong admirably responds. “I know that life goes on after basketball, and I’m living for something much more.”
It is clear there is more to Kendra De Jong than basketball and track. Take a trip to the family farm on a sunny summer day and it is obvious. De Jong is fueled by a desire to spend time with her family, experience life with her friends and ultimately fulfill her Savior’s higher purpose.