One of Lipscomb University’s newest Bisons won’t be on campus until this fall, but she is already gaining a lot of attention. She was featured in the New York Times on March 4 and on the “Today Show” March 5.
Kayla Montgomery, a senior from Mount Tabor High School in Winston-Salem, N.C., has signed a scholarship to be a part of the Bison cross country and track and field teams beginning this fall. She has become one of the fastest young distance runners in the country. And, she collapses every time she crosses the finish line.
Montgomery isn’t your typical runner. She has willed her way to becoming one of the top in her sport despite having multiple sclerosis.
Three years ago, Montgomery was diagnosed with MS, a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord resulting in loss of muscle control, vision, balance and numbness. With clearance from her doctors, she has turned those effects on her body into a technique that has helped her defy the medical odds against her and to excel as a runner. Because MS blocks the nerve signals from her legs to her brain, Montgomery is able to move at steady speeds that cause other runners pain. She can’t feel the pain, but at the end of a race when she stops putting one foot in front of the other, she collapses as her legs become unstable. Her coach is always there to catch her.
Montgomery’s phenomenal success drew the attention of university cross country and track and field programs across the country. But, she said, in the New York Times, that when most coaches found out she has MS, they didn’t call her back.
Bill Taylor called her back. He saw something in Montgomery that he knew would be a fit for Lipscomb University.
“Kayla fit perfectly with our team culture,” said Taylor, director of men’s and women’s cross country and track and field. “That is what we recruit on first, and it’s the reason we have the best team environment in the nation and a big reason for our rapid improvement and success as a program. Kayla has the academic focus, a terrific personality, great character, and we just knew she should be here at Lipscomb.”
As Taylor learned more about Montgomery, he also learned more about MS. He said during the recruiting process he talked in-depth with the Lipscomb athletic training staff and team doctors to learn as much as possible about the disease.
“The response was that there was no way of knowing how MS will affect Kayla in the future,” said Taylor. “My understanding is that it is different for each person and there is no predicting. They said that exercise likely helps her deal with it physically. So I guess we knew there was a risk, but we never wavered. I want her here. The coaching staff wants her here. The team wants her here. And I believe God wants her here. Who knows what this story will look like. We aren’t concerned about that. I do know that she is a wonderful person and a big-time competitor. Whatever happens, she will give her absolute best, and that will be enough.”