For someone who has not even graduated high school yet, future Bison cross country and track and field athlete Kayla Montgomery has already gained more national media attention than many professional athletes will in over the span of an entire career.
Montgomery is a senior at Mount Tabor High School in Winston-Salem, N.C who is currently competing in the high school national track championships in New York City alongside hundreds of the best high school track and field athletes from across the country. So what exactly sets her apart from her peers?
Montgomery was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis three years ago.
Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a disease that disrupts the way the nervous system communicates with the rest of your body, resulting in numerous symptoms including loss of muscle control and numbness of certain body parts.
Montgomery has had a successful running career in high school, despite MS causing her legs to go numb during all of her races to the point that she cannot stand on her own once she crosses the finish line. With her success came interest from colleges across the country, including Lipscomb. However, when other schools were hesitant to offer Montgomery a scholarship because of her disease, Lipscomb was more than willing to add her to the Bison team.
“Some of it is that we recruit on character and we recruit on academics. We recruit on a lot of different things; it’s not just athletics” said Bill Taylor, Director of Men’s and Women’s Cross Country and Track and Field at Lipscomb. “She’s a fast runner, but we’re looking for a certain fit for Lipscomb and for our program. And then I know it sounds kind of corny to say, but some of it is just God. We try to be obedient, and we felt like this is the place she was supposed to be.”
As more people began to find out about Montgomery’s story, the New York Times and the Today Show came calling, giving her the opportunity to share her story with millions. The media attention has proven to have both a positive and negative impact according to Taylor.
“I think it’s great that she’s bringing attention to MS,” Taylor said. “It’s a disease that needs a cure. They don’t have a cure for it right now; they don’t even know why it happens. So any attention that can help bring more support for finding a cure is awesome. I heard about the New York Times article, and it really took off. All of a sudden she was on the Today Show, and then next thing you know everybody’s trying to get her to do quotes and do articles. I just thought I don’t want her to be overwhelmed. I don’t want her to feel like she has to live up to anything; she just needs to be herself.”
Starting in the fall, Montgomery will be competing on both the cross country and track and field teams at Lipscomb. Both of those teams have achieved a great deal of success during the current school year, and Taylor believes that Montgomery will fit right in both on and off the field.
“She’s a great person,” Taylor said. “She fits Lipscomb. She fits our team. To me, that’s what is most important.”