For Allie Lehi, a knee injury she suffered in eighth grade turned out to be a defining moment.
"I actually had physical therapy for my knee," she said. "I liked (the process) and said, 'I kind of want to do this.' So that got me started."
Lehi wasted no time delving into the field. During her freshman year at Augusta Christian, she went to then-Athletic Director Bruce Lane and spoke to him about finding something relevant to athletic training in a school setting.
"He kind of told me just to make it my own thing, because I was the only person who had ever tried to start it," Lehi said. "So I started out going to Orthopaedic Associates of Augusta and learning everything I needed to know."
Soon, she was taping ankles and wrists for football players and getting thrown into a "real-world" clinic on the sidelines. And she loved every minute of it.
Once, she was so close to the action that she got hit when a tackle spilled to the sideline. As a big-time football fan, she didn't mind.
At first, she admitted, the work was strange because she was an unknown freshman to the upperclassmen she worked with.
Fast-forward to this, her senior year, and she is known across campus. She has made an impression on members of the football team and the coaching staff.
"It's nice to have all of the football team on your side at school," she said with a smile.
She's on the football roster as a trainer, attending every game, and she helps during basketball season as well.
"She's unbelievable," football coach Keith Walton said. "I don't know if you could find a person on this campus who would say a negative word about her."
Lehi has attended the University of Georgia student athletic trainer camp for two years and South Carolina Independent School Association athletic training camps. She has worked alongside the Lions' team doctor, and she has completed two years under the direction of Dr. David Hunter at MCG Sports Medicine.
For a collegiate study in kinesiology and student training, Lehi is considering numerous schools in North Carolina in addition to the University of Georgia.
Lehi worried the program she had built from the ground up would die when she graduates, but another student, freshman Savannah Carroll, has expressed interest in taking the reins.
She has already begun observing Lehi.
"I didn't want the program to stop just because I was moving on," Lehi said. "Because I know that, for four years, these kids have had somebody to tape and things like that. They need someone on the sideline they can go to."
Lehi is also an athlete, competing on the school's cross country and softball teams. She used to play basketball, but she gave it up to concentrate on school, training and the other two sports. Besides, it takes hard work to maintain her 4.0 grade-point average.
Having a trainer on the softball roster has been helpful.
"Our coaches were teaching us how to slide, and one of the coaches slid off just a little wrong and got this huge strawberry on her side," Lehi said. "So I had to tape it up and bandage it."
Lehi has cared for broken fingers on the field, too.
Her father, Chris, said he's impressed by the determination she has shown and her willingness to keep the program going.
"It's real exciting, and we're really thankful for the opportunity the school has given to her," mother Terrie Lehi said. "It's just been a real blessing for her to experience something she might do as a career, and she likes it."
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