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Kevin Montgomery originally didn’t set out to be a runner.
From the age of six, his love was baseball, and he played for 11 years in the South Oldham Little League. He ultimately started at second base for the Oldham County High School freshman team when he was in 8th grade, and he went on to play two more years at OC.
This Saturday, though, the 2012 OC grad will be with the Tennessee Wesleyan College cross-country team that will compete at the NAIA Nationals in Lawrence, Kan.
Montgomery’s aunt and grandfather – both marathon runners - planted the running bug pretty early.
“My aunt Kara asked me to run a 5K when I was in fourth grade. I ran a 26:42,” Montgomery recalled. “It was fun. It was something I could do with my family.”
Montgomery took up cross country first at Centerfield Elementary under coach Kevin Orrender in the fall of 2004. At first, it was just a fun sport during baseball’s offseason. But by the time Montgomery was running at East Oldham Middle School for coach Bob Bryant, he was beginning to gain more interest in the sport. A good coach and a good team can be great motivators, and Montgomery started to find that he could be a contributor.
“He was a pretty awesome coach and a great motivator,” Montgomery said. “He pushed us every day, but he was more than a coach. He was our best friend.”
Still, as much as he enjoyed running, Montgomery entered high school still thinking of baseball as his primary sport. That began to change during his junior season in cross country as his times went down. Based upon the advice of some college coaches, he made the difficult decision to drop out of baseball and run track in the spring.
The Oldham County cross country teams finished in the top 10 in the state in 2011 and 2012.
Montgomery wasn’t the best runner on those teams -- deep, talented squads whose top runner, Luke Weisharr, was ranked among the top 5 individuals in the state of Kentucky. Like 99.9 percent of all cross country runners, Montgomery never won a race in high school – his best finish was fifth place in the St. X Tiger Run JV race his junior year – but he did well enough to attract the attention of some small college coaches. One of those coaches was Shawn Jakubowski, the new head coach of Tennessee Wesleyan, who signed Montgomery to a cross country scholarship.
Montgomery credited his high school coaches with getting him ready for college.
“There are things they taught me that I still try to do in my races,” Montgomery said. “They really worked to get me to my maximum potential.
“Those coaches pretty much did everything. And they were always there for us.”
The college experience has been completely different. The hard work, however, paid off at the Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC) meet this year, as he ran a personal-best 27:08 in the 8 kilometer (about 5 miles) race, and the No. 17-ranked Tennessee Wesleyan squad finished second and earned an at-large berth to the NAIA Nationals. Montgomery will attend as the alternate.
“It’s a lot harder and more time-consuming,” Montgomery said about college running. “You have to learn to balance your time. But it’s worth it. You get to do something you love for four more years.
“And I love the support. There’s not a better group of guys.”