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Collegiate Competitor Puts Country First

The following article on Ashley Morgan, a member of the Army cross country team, orginally appeared here on USATriathlon.org on April 15, 2010.

Collegiate Competitor Puts Country First

Hundreds of collegiate triathletes head to Lubbock, Texas, this weekend for the USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championship hoping to win an individual or team title. For some, success in triathlon may translate into a professional career in the sport, with a chance of making an Olympic team someday. For others, there are dreams that outweigh Olympic opportunity.

Ashley Morgan has competed at Collegiate Nationals before. Last year, she finished second and went on to win her age group at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Clearwater. For four years, Ashley has been a member of the triathlon team at the U.S. Military Academy and has qualified for the World Class Athlete Program, a program that offers members of the military support and training in athletic endeavors.

The WCAP is an elite program, with unique qualifying standards in more than 20 sports, and gives soldiers the opportunity to prepare for national and international competitions, including the Olympic and Paralympic Games, while remaining military professionals.

Although Ashley is considered a prime candidate for the WCAP, she is opting to continue her journey with the Army. She will begin serving active duty after she graduates from West Point this spring.

Ashley shared with USA Triathlon why she feels compelled to serve in the Army, despite a love for triathlon:

"I have met the qualifying standards (for the WCAP) each year for the past four years, so I do have the opportunity to go ahead and apply to be accepted to train for (a chance at) the Olympics. This was one of the hardest, most unexpected, decisions of my life. I think it is not uncommon when I admit to dreaming of going to the Olympics when I was little, but now that I get here and this opportunity that I never thought would actually exist is right here before me, I am realizing that it would not mean as much to me in the place where I am in my life as I once thought it would.

When I was recruited to run for West Point, I knew there were a lot of other schools I could go to if my sole focus was to be the best runner I wanted to be - places where I could chose my own meals, select my class schedules, stay off my feet more when I wasn't training and get more hours of sleep. I came here initially because I was attracted to the challenge and wanted to learn how to be a leader in the army. The real reason I stayed was because I loved the people and really want to serve.

I absolutely love triathlon, and, if you ask anybody, they would tell you I am extremely passionate about it. That said, besides triathlon, I've spent four years doing everything I can to learn how to be the best officer I can be, and the army is where I feel led to serve right now. Nicholas Vandam, one of the most driven  triathletes I know and West Point grad of 2009, has recently reached his goal of being accepted in WCAP and will be training out in Colorado very soon. For Nick, he chose a different path (WCAP) to represent the U.S. and the Army through triathlon because this is where his heart and desire is right now and I can't express enough how proud of him for reaching this goal!

This is one of those choices in my life that I just had to pray about and give it up to God because I felt very much supported in either path I chose by my teammates, mentors and family. My fiancé, who is currently an infantry officer deployed with the 82nd Airborne to Iraq, told me that this was a decision I had to make on my own because he wanted me to make the right decision for me, and he supports me either way which I am incredibly grateful for!"
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