Kamryn McIntosh is in her second season as a member of the Clemson track & field team and is already one of the most decorated track stars in program history. The Hillburn, N.Y., native garnered three First-Team All-ACC accolades at the 2018 ACC Indoor Track & Field Championships in the 800m and as a member of both the 4x400m and distance medley relay teams. McIntosh is also the only Tiger in program history to post a top-three finish in the 800m at the indoor conference championship meet as a freshman. Her time of 2:03.59 at the indoor championships is second in program history, besting Clemson’s previous No. 2 indoor time, which stood for 26 years. McIntosh represented Clemson on the national stage at both the indoor and outdoor NCAA Championships en route to garnering All-America status as well.
But all of McIntosh’s achievements and accolades in a Clemson uniform almost did not happen.
In 2016 during the cross country season of her senior year of high school, McIntosh started exhibiting odd symptoms after races, which led her and her family to the discovery of something chilling.
“During the beginning of my senior year, I started running cross country, and after every race, I was completely drained. I was light-headed, couldn’t open my eyes, had stomach issues and would be completely weak. I couldn’t move for at least 30 minutes after each race.”
Luckily, McIntosh rounded out her cross country season with no major problems. On the track, she specialized in the 600m during the track & field season and set the then-national indoor 600m record as a sophomore in 2015. She was less concerned about the symptoms she endured during the fall during cross country season, which features longer races and requires more endurance-based fitness.
Without hesitation, McIntosh faced the track head on for her senior indoor season, but after a couple races, she was still felt drained after competing.
“I ended up going to the doctor and got blood work done. I was iron-anemic, but then she said I might not be getting enough blood flow to my head or muscles, which was causing me to feel very drained and lightheaded. After that, I went to a cardiologist, who put me through multiple tests.”
The tests indicated what the doctors anticipated. McIntosh was diagnosed with Anomalous aortic origin of the right coronary artery, otherwise known by its acronym, AAOCA. The congenital disease is associated with decreased blood flow to the heart tissue and has been known to cause sudden death in healthy children and young adults.
Doctors told McIntosh she was only receiving 70 percent of her normal blood flow, creating the severe symptoms after competing. She then underwent open-heart surgery, which last nearly five hours.
“I had blood coming out of the wrong spot (through the heart). It was coming out too early, so the blood was coming out, basically hitting another artery and slowly dragging along. The doctors had to cut a hole where it was supposed to come out and cauterize it.”
As a result of overcoming her condition, McIntosh was named the 2018 recipient of the Brandon Streeter Award, which is presented to a Clemson student-athlete who has persevered through injury to exceed on the field. The award was created to recognize the hardships that Streeter himself overcame during his time as a student-athlete.
Streeter is now an assistant football coach at Clemson and was a quarterback for the Tigers from 1996-99. He suffered several injuries, but persevered and overcame them to play a significant role during the last few seasons of his career.
McIntosh will look to carry her momentum from her freshman campaign into the 2018-19 track & field season. She and the Tigers are set to compete in five meets in 2018-19 at the Clemson Indoor Track & Field Complex.