When she was younger, Jill Moore had no interest in sports. Born with spina bifida, a birth defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth, she has been confined to a wheelchair most of her life.
Even after a man she met on a 150-mile tandem bike ride with her father convinced her to watch wheelchair sports, she wasn't interested at first.
"We watched a wheelchair rugby game, and they invited me to a practice for wheelchair basketball," she said. "I was kind of skeptical at first, I really wasn't very into it. But after I went to my first tournament I was hooked."
That was eight years ago. Now, the 17-year-old junior is a multisport star athlete, playing basketball, track and field, swimming, water skiing and snow skiing and is breaking down barriers for high school wheelchair athletes from around the state as a part of the Northwest Cabarrus High track team.
Never miss a local story.
Last year, Moore became the first wheelchair athlete to score points for her team at the N.C. high school track meet. Since she was the only athlete, she was basically racing against the clock to score points.
North Carolina is one of the few states that allow wheelchair athletes to compete at states, said Jeremy Cawley, Moore's coach at Northwest Cabarrus.
"North Carolina has embraced it tremendously," said Cawley, adding that Que Tucker, the deputy director of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, was instrumental in allowing Moore to compete. "We didn't have to fight for it by any means."
"I think (going to states) was definitely a very crucial part of my athletic career, so people coming through in chairs behind me won't have to go through that battle, they'll just have a paved path," said Moore.
Moore was part of another state first when she competed against another wheelchair athlete, Lindsey Good from Weddington High, on March 10.
She said that she and Good are friends and actually are both on the same basketball team (Rollin' Bobcats) and track team (Carolina Cruisers). She's excited to compete against Good again in the regional and state meets.
Cawley hopes that there will be more wheelchair athletes competing at the high school level in the future.
"The goal is to get to where we have six to eight (athletes), depending on the lanes, and they'll score just like any other event," he said.
Cawley said that Moore has been dominating at track meets since she started competing for the school.
"It's hard to tell when she's on a track by herself how fast she is, but when you start to look at times...she's well ahead of most wheelchair athletes," he said.
The qualifying time to score points in a meet is 6 minutes, 30 seconds for a mile. Moore's fastest mile time this year was 4 minutes and 41 seconds.
Beating the qualifying time is "not the challenge for her anymore," said Cawley. "We're having to set up new challenges, new obstacles for her to try to get through."
Her work ethic is what has made her so successful, according to Cawley.
"I could throw any workout I want at her and she's going to smile at first and do it and yell at me later, which is the same I get from any athlete," he said.
Moore was also invited to participate in the Paralympic Experience in Vancouver from March 10-17, where she got to experience the athletic competition first hand. She was one of 13 student athletes chosen based on an essay she wrote talking about what sports meant to her.
In four years, she hopes that she'll be competing in track or basketball at the next Paralympics.
Sports have given Moore many opportunities to see different parts of the world. In 2007, she traveled to Australia as a part of the USA basketball team, and she will travel to the Czech Republic in August for a track and swim meet.
Moore also traveled to the University of Arizona last week to work out with their wheelchair basketball team. She said that there are a very limited number of schools with wheelchair athletic programs, but they do offer full-ride scholarships. Moore really wants to go play at Alabama.
She said that sports have taught her so much over the years, and she hopes that other disabled kids will take her lead and start competing.
"(Sports) taught me that I'm not just this breakable piece of creation," said Moore. "I'm an athlete, and I'm here to compete and ready to win. It's something that you can't just receive, you have to go out there and get it."
"Doctors aren't going to find a cure in time," she added. "If someone's in a chair, you got to go out and find your own cure. You've got to make yourself happy."