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The Champion Within: Portland's Dana Morgan Matches Her Athletics Success in the Classroom

Sept. 17, 2008

Former freshman of the year and last year's conference champion, Dana Morgan looks to better her 46th place finish at last year's NCAA championships.

This week she took some time to talk to us about pre-race preparation, balancing academics and athletics, and her experience at the University of Portland.

Q: Can you walk us through how you mentally and physically prepare 24 hours leading up to a meet?

DM: All of the obvious things: hydrate, eat a good dinner, go to bed at a reasonable hour. I also make it a point to do some yoga. Day of: morning shake-out run. Mentally: I don't think about racing until the team meeting and then I get excited. I try not to overpack on the homework when travelling- some homework is realistic, but bringing every subject is just extra stress. Day of: I listen to good music (team CD) and relax until the warm-up.

Q: Do you get nervous before a meet and what goes through your head before the start of the race?

DM: Yes, but since high school it has really become a positive nervousness- more excitement and curiosity than sickness. What goes through my head: General reflections on how hard our team has worked and deserves to reward itself. Also, "Run Fast, Turn Left" -Coach Mills (even though that alludes to track, I like the simplicity) or "It's 20 minutes out of your life" (thank you Dad).

Q: You finished 46th at the NCAA Championship last season. What was the experience of running on the national stage like and how do you use that experience to make yourself a better runner?


DM: It was a tough experience running without my teammates. I'd see any purple jersey and pretend it was a Pilot, but it wasn't the same as having the motivation and comfort of knowing your teammates are in the pack. The race went out so fast as well. It definitely makes me a more experienced runner and makes me want to work hard and feel more controlled for the next time.

Q: How did you get into running and what do you enjoy most about the sport?

DM: My club soccer coach told me there were two types of center midfielders: creators and work horses. I was the work horse kind. Endurance running was the best aspect of my game. My high school soccer and cross country coaches were very flexible in terms of my training, and in the end, I chose running.

Q: How did you decide to attend the University of Portland?

DM: I saw Merlo Field at age 14 and loved it. It was that "dream big" school for any soccer player. Then I sent an email to the UP cross country coach my junior year of high school and really liked his demeanor. I came and listened in on a biology lecture by Becky Houck and was sold on academics. The city of Portland is great as well.

Q: What is your favorite hangout on the Portland campus and why?DM: The library. I know it well.

Q: Being a Biology major, what is your focus and what career are you looking into after college?

DM: My focus is biological psychology, recently. I am also interested in genetics. I've had pre-med intentions, but am still figuring it out.

Q: Being a WCC All-Academic member, how do you balance your school duties with the demands of your sport?

DM: It's not easy. Looking over notes in the ice-bath might help sometimes, but basically you just have to be commited to both I guess. I won't elaborate much because that's stressful :)

Q: Outside of your major, what is the most interest/unique class that you have taken at Portland?

DM: Advanced writing with John MacDonald.

Q: What is your favorite course to run and why?

DM: Sundodger in Seattle. It's pretty and it was my first collegiate race.

Q: The University of Portland has been pretty dominant in the sport of cross country in the WCC. How have the Pilots been able to sustain their success and do you as a runner feel any pressure to continue that tradition?

DM: We've made that a goal every season I've been here and train accordingly. We are proud of our accomplishments. There is some pressure, yes, but it is mainly self-induced.

Q: What type of leadership role comes with being an upper-classmen?DM: Let people know what it has felt like to accomplish the team goals that I've been a part of, and be supportive and appreciative.

Q: A lot of people might not know what goes into training for cross country. How did you prepare for the fall season?

DM: I finally got decent base-mileage in this summer, and have implemented cross-training to avoid injury.

Q: What is something that you know now that you didn't know as a freshman? (Can be anything, athletic, academic, social, or silly)

DM: Don't take sunshine for granted!