The following article profiling Ashley Morgan and the Army women's cross country team was written by Eric S. Bartelt and appeared in the Pointer View on Sept 19, 2008.
A trip to Guatemala during the summer is an attractive deal for any cadet, especially a trip that enhances the cadet’s individual development as a future leader.
Cow Ashley Morgan was involved in humanitarian work that was a part of a water monitoring project to help the Guatemalan people maintain a sanitary water system.
Morgan spent 16 days on that Advanced Individual Academic Development mission, all the while not giving much time to her athletic prowess in the triathlon and cross country disciplines.
Even though she didn’t spend much time training this summer, Morgan has come out blazing this cross country season as she finished first at the Army Open Aug. 29 and fourth versus Cornell in a dual meet Sept. 12 at West Point.
In the week between those two cross county meets, Morgan also finished first in a triathlon event to further cement her indefatigable nature.
“Ashley has done a tremendous job,” said Army women’s head cross country coach Laura Kirchgarber. “She has stepped up and is really fit right now. She trains for triathlons and trains with our team.
“While the rest of the team was doing pre-season camp, she was on an (AIAD) trip to Guatemala, which was an incredible experience for her, but she’s also been working off less summer training than most and is still getting a lot done with it,” she added. “It makes us excited for what she will continue to build on.”
Morgan’s fourth-place finish against Cornell wasn’t a small feat considering the Big Red ranks highly in the region. She was the only Army runner to break in the Top 10, breaking Cornell’s pack of strong runners.
Although running the West Point Golf Course is often a daunting task as part of the cross country race trail, it was extraordinarily tough against Cornell with the heavy rain.
“I ran hard, figuring it can’t get any worse than this,” Morgan said. “Training here on these hills all the time, with the rain, we’re used to it. So this is to our advantage. I had fun out there and that was my goal for this race -- to have fun -- since it is early in the season.”
Coming off of back-to-back weekends where she won, one would think she would be too tired to succeed again, but she returned with a vengeance against Cornell. She feels that participating in triathlons makes her more durable for the cross country season.
“Triathlons have definitely made me stronger,” Morgan said. “I participate in triathlons because I’m so passionate about it. I just love it. I think it’s helped me not get injured for the past three years.”
Her start to the 2008 cross county season is a surprise to her because she was relatively limited in her preparation time for the season because of her AIAD trip to Guatemala.
“I’m really surprised at my strong start,” Morgan explained. “I didn’t get in my training this summer because of the trip to
Guatemala, so I didn’t get a good base and I was really concerned by that.
“The goal is to get in about 70 miles a week (during summer training), but I was training at about 10 miles a week,” she added. “However, I feel the break helped make me stronger and stay fresh longer, which has helped me with my times (early in the season).”
The 2007 National Triathlon Champion for her age group and third place finisher at the Triathlon World Championships in Hamburg, Germany, believes the women’s cross country team will surprise some people this fall.
“We’re trying to get the whole team to pack up this year because we’ve got an excellent group of girls,” Morgan said. “Our primary goal this year is to get everyone together and pull each other along, especially with us being Army and we’re built here to push each other to do our best as a team.”
Kirchgarber is impressed by the high volume that Morgan has taken upon herself because triathlons and cross country require much training to be successful.
The hope is that Morgan will be a high finisher in many races along with Firstie captain Meg Curran, who is coming off a sensational spring by winning the Patriot League track and field title in the 10,000 meters with a time of 37:31.22.
Curran, despite her unusually low 34th place finish in last year’s cross country PL finals, will make waves as the season progresses. She didn’t participate against Cornell, but opened the season with a second place finish at the Army Open, 13 seconds behind Morgan.
Kirchgarber said that Curran’s success in the spring can easily translate to a strong fall cross country season.
“Anytime you can come off a good track season, you will feel a little bit faster,” Kirchgarber said. “And when you have that kind of success, you want to build off of that.”
Kirchgarber feels that Cows Toni Oestmann, Stephanie Schoeneman, Yearling Christina Rath and Plebe Chelsea Prahl will step up and pack up well with Curran and Morgan this season.The team has been predicted for a PL fourth-place finish, but that doesn’t discourage the group from proving its critics to be wrong.
“I think we have the ability to surprise and do better than our predictions,” Kirchgarber said. “I think it definitely won’t be an easy task and we have our work cut out for us, but over the course of the next seven weeks we really need to keep hitting our milestones and continue having good workouts and races. If we do that, we’ll see what happens from there.”