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THE WINNER: Kayla Montgomery
School: Mount Tabor (Winston-Salem, N.C.)
Position: Distance runner
Athletic achievement: She won the Class 4A individual state championship with a time of 17:29.12 this past season, leading the Spartans to fifth place as a team. An Honorable Mention selection on DyeStat’s national individual rankings, Montgomery captured 11th place at the Foot Locker South Regional championships in 17:22. Despite having been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she finished just two seconds shy of earning a bid to the national Foot Locker Cross Country Championships, recording the fastest time in history by a non-qualifying female athlete at the event. Her time of 17:22 at the Foot Locker South Regional championships ranked as North Carolina’s fastest prep girls 5K time of the season.
Academic excellence: Montgomery has maintained a 4.64 weighted GPA.
Exemplary character: A member of her school’s Latin and art clubs as well as the National Honor Society, National English Honor Society and National Art Honor Society, she has volunteered locally as part of numerous community-service initiatives on behalf of her church, including a Christmas gift-giving campaign, at homeless shelters and on service-mission trips to New York City, Puerto Rico and Guatemala.
“Kayla Montgomery’s story is the most inspiring I have seen in 20 years,” said Nate Newsome, head coach of rival West Forsyth (Clemmons, N.C.). “The more we learned of her situation, the more we rooted for her despite being her opponent. I have watched her grow from a slightly above-average runner into one of the top runners in state history. On top of that, she’s battling multiple sclerosis the whole way. She has been the toughest of competitors and humblest of victors. She is aware of the gift of time and has voiced wanting to run as fast as she can while she can. I can honestly say Kayla Montgomery has positively impacted me as a coach and my runners as a model of how to endure.”
THE FUTURE: Montgomery has verbally committed to Lipscomb.