When Morgan West enrolled at St. Dominic Academy a little more than three years ago, she had no intentions of joining the school’s historic track and field program. In fact, West, a native of Secaucus, had no clue about just how mighty the SDA track team has been over the years.
“I definitely didn’t have an idea about anything,” West said. “I was first going to try out for the basketball and softball teams.”
But West came up with an idea. As a freshman, she was going to join the SDA cross country team.
“I was like the fastest girl in middle school and I wanted to stay in shape for the other seasons,” West said. “So I said, ‘Why not try it?’ The only reason why I joined at first was to stay in shape.”
However, veteran SDA head track and field coach John Nagel knew that West had the potential to develop into something special, a lot like other SDA track athletes have been in the past. They might not have entered the school with the idea of becoming a track standout, but they sure leave the school that way.
“When I first saw her, I thought she could be pretty good,” Nagel said. “We had a very deep team at the time, but you always look ahead toward the future. She had a chance to be pretty good and I told her that.”
The words must have registered, because West quickly abandoned her idea of becoming a basketball and softball star.
“John convinced me that I should stay on,” West said. “He told me that I could become good and I felt like I was doing pretty well. But I never expected what would happen.”
As the years progressed, West became one of the more versatile performers in the storied history of the SDA track program. She became willing to do anything and try any event.
“Everyone tries everything,” Nagel said. “It makes them more marketable. We try to encourage that, because let’s face facts. Running around in a circle eventually becomes monotonous. So we had Morgan try everything.”
In the early days, West was strictly a competitor in the 800-meter and 1,600-meter runs. But as the days went on, she developed into something special.
“Out of the blue one day, her mother [Heidi] came to me and said, `You know, Morgan’s pretty fast. She ran fast in grammar school,’” Nagel said. “So we threw her into the 55-meter dash during the indoor season and all of a sudden, we realized that she had the aptitude to go fast.”
Last year, West was one of the Blue Devils’ regular competitors in the high jump, but this season, the team was lacking in the long jump.
“She had never done the long jump before,” Nagel said. “I mean, never even tried it. But she had the willingness to try it late and was pitching in to help the rest of the group.”
“I think that’s fun, doing all the different events,” West said. “I’m always going back and forth, from one event to the next. I don’t get a lot of time in between and sometimes, it’s tough, but I still love it.”
West showed her versatility recently at the Hudson County Track Coaches Association championships, where she won the 100-meter and 400-meter dashes, finished second in the long jump and third in the 800-meter run.
At the Catholic Track Conference championships last Sunday, West anchored the Blue Devils’ mile relay team that finished sixth, finished sixth in the long jump and ran a blistering 2:19.85 in the 400-meter dash, only the seventh girl in SDA history to eclipse 2:20 in that event, joining prolific SDA track performers like Kim Hudock, Liane Sullivan, Jill Lissenden, Rita McCarthy, Kathleen Salmon and former Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Year Cheri Selby.
“Morgan’s in good company right there,” Nagel said.
For her efforts, West has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Nagel marvels at West’s versatility.
“Her range is exceptional and very rare,” Nagel said. “I’ve been very impressed with the way she’s handled everything, especially the long jump this year. It isn’t an easy transition to become a long jumper. I remember wondering who we could put there just so we could get something out of the long jump. With her speed, we had to try and she did very well. She did what a senior leader is supposed to do.”
West knew that her role was going to increase in her senior year.
“I knew I had to become more of a leader,” West said. “Our seniors stepped up last year and led us. I knew that was it’s what seniors do. I remember what Kim Hudock did as a senior. It was my last chance and I guess I wanted to be the next in line.”
West will head to Monmouth University in the fall to major in accounting and continue her track and field career.
“I can’t believe it’s over,” West said. “It’s really flown by. I don’t want it to end.”
West will go to the NJSIAA Parochial A state championships this weekend and will hope to earn a berth at the Meet of Champions on June 3.
“I really want to do well in my last meet,” West said. “I want to have something to remember. I’m proud of myself. I guess I did pretty well, considering I didn’t think I’d ever be running track. So it’s definitely amazing.”
“She’s really worked hard to become a better athlete and a better student,” Nagel said. “She’s going to do fine in college.”
Much like all of the prior SDA track and field athletes who graduated from the program and moved on to the college ranks. Morgan West wasn’t the first to do so and she certainly won’t be the last either. – Jim Hague Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.