Rule of Stumm: Former Crook County track star entering the battle of her life
- Pamplin Media
- Central Oregonian - Sports
ing been born a stone's throw away from the University of Oregon's legendary Hayward Field in Eugene, it seems almost pre-destined that Kim Hyatt went on to become a successful track and field star.
Having spent her formative years in Crook County - a place where Hyatt says her coaches were not just teachers but also role models - it sounds about right that she developed into the person she is today.
Grounded, caring, active and, above all, determined.
Dr. Hyatt, now an assistant professor at Weber State University in Utah and the U.S. Track and Field Javelin Coordinator, fondly recalls her early days back beneath the rim.
Struggling with the awkwardness and feelings of unpopularity that plague many middle school students, Hyatt saw sports as an escape.
She played neighborhood games as a child growing up, but because she lived so far from town, it was often hard to field enough kids to play any team sport.
Hyatt, therefore, got her first true taste of competitive action as a junior high student - and immediately fell in love.
"For me it was part of a release. It was a way to develop some self esteem and self confidence, as well as kind of hide away from some of my demons," she recalls. "I had such a competitive nature, I just really loved it once I had the doors opened for me."
Hyatt remembers being so enamored with her new situation that she would arrive at school at 6:30 each morning just to shoot baskets.
"Paul Evans would come and open up the doors for us and four or five us would play until the bell rang," she said. "When you are kind of an unpopular middle school kid, you're looking for ways to find yourself. That really helped me develop a trust and a love for the game."
Hyatt honed her skills and went on to star for the Cowgirls, leading the Crook County girls basketball team to two playoff appearances over a span of three years. She spent her falls playing volleyball and stumbled into javelin in the springs, almost by default.
"At that time we didn't have a softball team at Crook County and I happened to have a decent arm. So [the javelin] just came a little easier than other things," Hyatt said.
Her freshman year would have been her first year ever competing in the javelin but the 1983 Crook County High School budget failed and all spring sports were cancelled.
She came back her sophomore year and garnered enough success by her senior year to continue on to the next level.
Because of the reputation of the school, and because she still had family ties in the area, Hyatt set her sights on the University of Oregon.
Overshadowed by Paula Berry, a javelin thrower from nearby Dayville who was at the time nationally ranked, Hyatt was forced to walk on. Oregon said that they would try her out in their morning meets and go from there.
And so from there Hyatt went.
She went on to earn All-American honors her freshman year and after three more years of the same, she was finally offered a full scholarship her senior year.
After college Hyatt continued to compete for Nike and Reebok and in 1995, heading into the 1996 Olympic trials, was the number one ranked women's javelin thrower in the country.
Then one morning she woke up and couldn't walk. She was confined to a wheel chair for two months as doctors tried to figure out what was wrong. They never did give her a declarative answer and though she was cleared to compete in the trials, by the time they rolled around she had been considerably weakened.
"I really didn't have anything left to be at the level I was at the year prior," she said.
Because Hyatt had always valued academics as high as athletics, this is what she fell back on. She stayed involved in the sport through coaching while earning her masters at Idaho State University and her doctorate at the University of Utah.
She has been at Weber State now for seven years.
Last October Hyatt got sick again and doctors confirmed that she was suffering from multiple sclerosis. It is most likely what had caused her condition in 1996, they said, and was just now making another relapse.
For Hyatt, a woman who has always prided herself on her activeness and control of her body, the hardest part is not knowing what is next.
"I have been fortunate enough not to have as bad of a relapse as the first one, but just the progressiveness of the disease has probably more affected my moods," she said. "It's frightening in this early stage of the game and not knowing."
Though she claims her symptoms are far better than many people at her stage, she has begun to lose some of her eyesight and has developed weaknesses in the left side of her body. She gets the muscle spasms usually associated with the disease and deals pretty much with chronic pain.
As she focuses on the next stage of her life, she is relying on some of her earlier lessons to pull her through.
"I am becoming more involved with some advocacy things that I am looking forward to exploring and showing people that the diagnosis really isn't the end of the world," she said. "I am hoping I can draw back to those high school athletic days and college days that got me to the level of athletics that I did and that they will help me maintain as a functioning human being."
She remains inspiringly upbeat about the situation, viewing it as just another challenge in her already extremely successful life.
"I think anything bad that happens makes us stronger in a lot of other ways," she says. "At least I hope."
So do we Dr. Hyatt.
So do we.