Former Belgrade basketball player Gabby Weber has been named as the recipient of the Section 8 NFHS Spirit of Sport Award, the Montana High School Association announced Thursday.
Weber, who graduated in 2020, was struck with a rare vascular disease in her legs beginning in December of 2018. Despite several surgeries and countless hours of physical therapy, she continues to pursue playing college basketball while educating the public about her disease.
The National Federation of State High School Associations recognizes individuals “who exemplify the ideals of the positive spirit of sport that represents the core mission of education-based athletics.”
The national winner will be recognized June 29 at the NFHS Summer Meeting in Orlando, Fla., while section winners will be honored before the end of the current school year. Section 8 includes Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Washington and Wyoming.
“Truly humbled and honored to have received this award,” Weber posted on her Twitter account. “So thankful for all he support, love, and prayers shown to my family and myself during this journey. We are still fighting every day.”
Just a couple of games into her junior season, Weber began to experience cramping in her right calf. It only got worse from there as her foot soon swelled to twice its size, turned purple, and she gradually lost feeling.
Clearly the lower leg was not receiving the blood flow it needed. Eventually, Weber was diagnosed with popliteal artery entrapment, a rare vascular disease in which the muscle and tendons near the knee are positioned in a way that they compress the popliteal artery.
Following two surgeries Weber was on the road to recovery and returned for the final eight games of her senior season. The point guard improved with each contest and earned second team all-conference honors in the Eastern AA conference.
Two months later, Weber signed a letter of intent to play college ball at the University of Montana Western, an NAIA program in Dillon. But once on campus this past fall the symptoms that had stricken the right leg began in the left.
Thus, just three weeks into her freshman year at Montana Western, it was over. Weber had surgery on the left leg in October and has been in physical therapy since with the hopes of returning to basketball.
“Gabby in an inspiration to our high school student athletes across the state and now across the nation,” the joint press release by the NFHS and MHSA stated. “Gabby will receive a plaque and a mention in a video shown during the Opening General Session of the NFHS Summer Meeting.”