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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Logan Montgomery at Ridgeland High School on Monday, July 5, 2021

Sometimes the right sport just finds the right kid.

For most young aspiring athletes it takes years before trial and error, success and failure, social environments and changing interests combine to bring an athlete's true competitive passion to the forefront.

For Logan Montgomery it was love at first sight. While most fifth graders are hitting and kicking balls, riding bikes and putting on football pads, Montgomery was picking up heavy objects and seeing how far he could throw them.

Of course, there have been many other sports — he's played football, basketball, tennis ("pretty much anything sports related I've been into at one point") — but from the moment the Ridgeland High School two-time state champion picked up a shot put and a discus, he knew his athletic path had been chosen.

Lisa Montgomery was headed off to run track and field practice at Chattanooga Valley Middle School and Logan, like most kids, would take the bus after school and join his mom. Walking around the field the youngster picked up a random shot and, in the sport's lingo, put it. He did the same thing with a discus.

His mother was both amused and astonished.

"He wanted to do the things the bigger kids were doing, so he picked up the shot put and discus," said Lisa Montgomery, a former prep track athlete who played collegiate basketball at North Carolina State. "I remember him saying, 'Momma, will you record me?' So, I did and it took off from there. It was amazing. I mean, the footwork was awful but the discus and shot just flew."

Flash forward six years and the now 6-foot-7, 300-pound rising senior has turned that awkward beginning into a path that could, he hopes, make him an Olympian. In the past three months Montgomery has won GHSA individual shot put and discus championships and earned All-American status in three disciplines (adding the hammer throw) after a strong showing at the USATF National Outdoor Championships in Rome, Ga.

He will compete in the USATF Junior Olympics in Jacksonville, Fla., at the end of this month, where only the best of the best are invited. After that? Well, unless there is an unexpected fork in the road, Montgomery's path will lead him to college and ultimately a shot at making the United States National Team.

"The ultimate goal is the Olympics," said Montgomery, who has personal competition bests of 63'2" in the shot put and 175'4" in the discus. "Knowing I could be in that position keeps me going. The idea of being an Olympian and representing my country and my roots in the north Georgia area and being on that stage in that position — Olympians call it 'magical' and I can 100% see why they call it that."

Of course, turning that dream into reality takes more than raw talent and a desire to be the best. It will take total dedication for several years just to get the opportunity to qualify during a time in his life that will also involve pursuing a college degree (he's interested in Marine Biology), starting a career and maybe a family.

Montgomery's biggest supporter is also one of his biggest believers, and it's not just because she's his mother.

"As a mom, you want to see your kid be successful in whatever they choose to do," Lisa Montgomery said. "Making the Olympic team would be phenomenal. Being a college athlete myself and knowing what it takes — you can have the biggest heart and drive, but if you don't physically check off the requirements, the height, weight and strength, you won't be successful. He checks those marks.

"But he's also the most driven kid I've seen. He sets goals for himself every year and knowing how hard he works to achieve them is just phenomenal."

That drive was severely tested in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, canceling the spring track and field season and halting in-person training. Montgomery would have been a heavy favorite as a sophomore to win shot put and discus titles. He used the lost opportunity as motivation, leading to his dual Class AAAA state titles — the first in school track and field history — this past season.

"This season almost felt like a revenge season," he said after winning the discus competition by nearly nine feet and the shot put by almost five feet. "I had worked so hard for that opportunity and then it didn't happen. Doing it this year after having that gap year was just awesome."

After the strong showing in Rome, which was his first national competition, the focus turned to the Junior Olympics meet, where another good outing could help secure his college scholarship. Throwing coach Chris Rogers, one of four coaches who work with Montgomery at Marietta's Throw1Deep, is confident a full scholarship, which is rather rare in track and field, is on the way.

"He's a good student and he's thrown far enough now to receive a full ride," said Rogers, who specializes in the shot put and whose son just graduated from Virginia Tech after setting the Georgia state high school shot put record. "He just has to do it his senior year and do it at a national meet and he's on the path to do just that."

Rogers is also high on Montgomery's chances of becoming an Olympian, comparing him to world record holder and reigning Olympic shot put champion Ryan Crouser.

"He's on the same path," Rogers said. "Typically you peek out in your late 20s and early 30s in throwing. That doesn't mean you can't reach it before then, but that's the usual peek and he's right on target."

Montgomery knows the path to fulfilling his Olympic dream will be steep and rocky, but he also knows that if he falls short it won't be because of lack of effort. He considers how he started and where he is six years later and if his progression remains steady his path could end in glory.

"It's going to take a lot of hard work, no doubt," he said. "I would want to keep training throughout high school and college. The most likely games would maybe be Los Angeles in 2028, so it would be seven years of hard work, sweat, tears and blood — all that stuff.

"It's unreal just thinking about it, but I'm willing to do whatever it takes."

Contact Lindsey Young at lyoung@timesfreepress.com; follow him on Twitter @youngsports22

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