African-American athletes recognized for their success


Abigail Bekele

Senior Kayla Scott, sprinter for women’s track and field.//Photo by Abigail Bekele/The Guilfordian

Among the seven core values that Guilford holds is diversity, limited not only to the student body, but into athletics as well. In recognition of Black History Month, The Guilfordian will acknowledge the efforts of our African-American student-athletes and their efforts in both their academics and their respective sports.

As a Division III institution, Guilford allows student-athletes to be involved in more than just their primary sport. Senior Kayla Scott played both basketball and ran sprints for the women’s track team before switching primarily to track. She looks to former women’s track and field coach Jamie McNeair-Reese, as well as current assistant women’s track and field coach Antoinette Padilla, who are both African-American women, as leaders who inspire her.

“Coach Jamie and coach Toni have helped me mentally and physically,” said Scott. “Coach Jamie encouraged and critiqued me. She built my very first foundation for correctly running, and even cared about her athletes so much she went out of pocket and bought me new shoes because she knew I needed them, and it would help my health.

“Coach Toni helped me by improving my foundation and building a technique. She constantly addresses what can happen if I follow through with my new techniques and determination.”

Scott also highlighted the backgrounds of her coaches as inspiration to strive to be her best.

“They both help by having strong successful athletic backgrounds as hall of famers and Olympic athletes,” said Scott. “They give me hope and drive. I am more willing than I ever was before.”

Scott was a member of the 2016-17 women’s basketball team that won the Old Dominion Athletic Conference tournament and hosted a game during the Division III NCAA tournament. She also has the fourth fastest mark in the 60-meter dash for the Quakers women’s track team this season, along with the fourth and sixth fastest marks in the 200-meter dash.

Being a collegiate athlete has also provided some of our student-athletes with the opportunity to venture into other facets of the college life that will help them after graduation.

“Being a student-athlete is a constant scavenger hunt of how to maximize my opportunities,” said junior men’s basketball player Leonard McNair. “What I do in my sport, in the classroom and in preparation for my aspirations after graduation is my main focus. For me, creating unique strategies to get the most of out of all I’m involved with has been my struggle.

“As a Bonner scholar and entrepreneur, I’m able to gain professional development and connections in my diverse career track. Growing in my role in this program has made scheduling so important. Practices and games are relatively stable, so knowing those times allows me to fill out my schedule accordingly.”

McNair was a member of the 2016-17 team that won the ODAC crown just like their women counterparts. The men’s team made it to the second round of the Division III NCAA tournament.

Overcoming the struggle of being overwhelmed with work can be stressing mentally and physically, but McNair, as well as many other black student-athletes, has found success by embracing the challenge.

“Being proactive in this has been very beneficial and my success, semester by semester, has been heavily influenced by this,” said McNair. “Being diligent and in tune to all I’m involved in has been my secret to overcoming conflicts and things of that nature.”

Junior football player Montek Johnson finds comfort in his team as a black student-athlete.

“Being a collegiate athlete was another opportunity to play the sport I love. Being black and playing (football) gives me a chance to play with a lot of other people like me.”

Johnson was a starting wide receiver for the football team in 2017. He led the team in yards per catch, ranked second in touchdowns and third in total receiving yards. He also had the longest catch of the season for the team with a 97-yard touchdown in the team’s first game against Huntingdon College. A multisport athlete in high school who played both baseball and basketball along with football, Johnson looks to his uncle, who was a standout baseball star, as inspiration.

“My uncle inspired me, and he’s been playing baseball all his life. He had a chance to play for the Dodgers. I played a lot of baseball, too, but switched my sport to football, but I still want to piggyback off him.”

The success of our current African-American student-athletes is evident, and their success serves as a role model to younger and future collegiate athletes at Guilford College.