Cross Country

In this Herald file photo, Morgan Casey of Northeast has the course to herself on her way to winning the girls race at the Schoolhouse Open cross country meet at Emma Young Park in Clinton.

The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU) released their 2020 inductees to the IGHSAU Track and Field Hall of Fame, and a former Rebel was included.

Morgan Casey graduated in 2010 before moving on to a collegiate career and is one of the newest members to the elite Iowa running group.

During her time as a Rebel, Morgan Casey dominated not only the Eastern Iowa area, but the entire state. She was an eight -time state champion in her time at Northeast.

Running has always been a part of her nature, and that love was first spurred in her when she was a child. She had an influence in her own family that got her out for sports of all kinds.

“My grandma was an early influence,” Casey recalled. “She loved sports, but went to high school at a time when girls didn’t get the same opportunities to compete.”

It also grew out of some personal tragedy.

“One of my cousins was killed while running when she was only 14 years old, and the injustice of that shaped who I am as a runner too,” Casey said. “I’ve always felt motivated to run for those who can’t.”

From the very first moment she put on the blue Rebel uniform, she proved she was one of the best. By her junior cross country season, she was picking up her first titles in Fort Dodge.

“There’s a freedom in running that doesn’t exist in very many places,although to be honest I think running might have chosen me,” Casey said. “It truly was my first crush. When I was in kindergarten I had a diary and I wrote ‘I love gym because I love to run’. That diary entry in still in a scrapbook somewhere at my parents’ house.”

She ended up with two state cross country crowns before she was done. Her 4:31.77 time in the 1500-meter race is still eighth on the all-time list. She has a pair of titles in that race and the 2000-meter race, along with one in the 800-meter run and the distance medley relay.

She also qualified for the Drake Relays seven times.

And as if those outdoor records and times weren’t enough, she also won four indoor titles as well.

Although on the track she excelled and her accolades prove that, distance running is a mentally grueling task. Through any doubts, she pushed on.

She credits her time in Goose Lake as part of that. The Rebels’ running programs are rock solid and well-known, and that support helped even when things got hard.

“It takes a lot of time and hard work to be really good at anything, and it’s really normal to have that kind of commitment come with some doubts, especially when you’re a teenager and still trying to figure out exactly who you are and who you want to be,” Casey said.

“It’s pretty well known throughout the world of athletics that distance running is particularly unglamorous, but the Northeast community didn’t care about that. They were awesome and supportive and that made it all so much fun.”

After high school, Casey traded in her Rebel blue for the red and yellow of the Iowa State Cyclones, breaking personal records and earning All-Big 12 honors in her time there.

Casey competed at Iowa State in both track and cross country. She earned All-Big 12 honors in the 3,000 Steeplechase, 1600 meters, 3000 meters and the Distance Medley. She was a two-time Academic All-Big 12 first team selection.

But it’s her time as a Rebel that she’s being recognized for with her induction into the hall of fame. Casey, along with the other two inductees (Taylor Twedt of West Fork and Sioux City East’s Ellen Dougherty) will be formally recognized at the 2021 state track meet in Des Moines.

“I could write a whole book on my advice to budding young runners, but my top piece of advice is to find balance,” Casey said. “There is so much in running and in life that’s out of your control, and that’s OK. Controlling the controllables means finding balance. Your diet, your strength training, your training cycles, and your daily habits as an athlete all require balance.

“Running is a lifestyle, but it doesn’t need to become your whole life. If it stops being fun take a break and figure out what’s missing.”