On the biggest stage, against the toughest competition, sophomore Morgan Uceny did what she has done all winter — she shined. Uceny capped her remarkable indoor season with a seventh-place finish in the 800-meter run, at the 2005 NCAA Indoor Track and Field championships, held in the Randal Tyson Track Center at the University of Arkansas. Her run of 2:07.18 earned her All-America status — the first national award of her collegiate career.
Uceny came into Saturday’s preliminary rounds seeded 13th out of 16 runners, knowing she needed to place in the top two spots of her heat, or in one of the four fastest times other than the top two times from each heat to make the finals. In the face of incredible pressure because of a capacity crowd and national television exposure (the meet will be shown on ESPN2 this Wednesday at 12 p.m.), Uceny qualified as the seventh seed for the final, despite being seeded 13th entering the meet.
“She wasn’t intimidated by the sellout crowds and the fast times [of her opponents],” said Cornell women’s head coach Lou Duesing, who himself was recently named the Northeast Region indoor coach of the year by the U.S. Track Coaches Association. “Over the two days, in both races, she just competed very, very well.”
In her preliminary run, Uceny lowered her second-best all-time school mark in the 800-meter event by .24 seconds, with a time if 2:06.66. Uceny ran 2:07.18 in the final for the seventh-place finish. Although the final run snapped her streak of seven straight personal best performances, it was still the third best 800-meter time of her career.
“Too often, people come to something like this and think that something’s different,” Duesing said. “If you do what you did to get yourself here, you’re going to be happy with your result.”
To help Uceny focus on her run and stay relaxed, Duesing reminded her of a scene from the movie Hoosiers. In the scene, the team’s head coach Norman Dale (played by Gene Hackman) has the lines on his opponent’s floor and the height of their basket measured. It shows the players that although the arena may be bigger, louder, and unfamiliar, the game is the same.
Duesing wanted Uceny to get the same message about the Randal Tyson Track Center, and the tactic worked. Uceny’s time in the finals made her the first member of Cornell women’s track since 1997 to earn All-America honors, and was the fastest run of any sophomore in the nation.
“It is a great track meet. Literally every single race is full of excitement,” Duesing said. “That’s part of the thing that made it so special for Morgan, was that atmosphere.”
Uceney trained lightly this week after two very tough weeks. At the Heptagonal championships two weekends ago, Uceny won the 800-meter run in 2:08.15, the meet’s fastest time since 1981. A week later at the ECAC championships, Uceny ran a then second-fastest time in Cornell history with a time of 2:06.90, making her the 800-meter ECAC champion.
As for the spring season, Duesing isn’t looking for similar performances from his star runner, only for the same effort.
“I’m not looking for her to be an All-American or making it to nationals. The reason she got where she is is because she worked hard,” he said.
After a quick break, Uceny will rejoin the Red to prepare for the commencement of the outdoor season, which begins March 19 when the Red travels to California to compete in the Long Beach Invitational.
Archived article by Josh Perlin
Sun Staff Writer