While the rest of her teammates remained at home last weekend to compete in the Cornell Invitational, junior Morgan Uceny of the women’s track team hopped a plane to her home state of Indiana to run in Notre Dame’s Meyo Invitational. For the second weekend in a row, Uceny’s performance in the 800 meters provisionally qualified her for the NCAA Championships in March. Her time of 2:06.91 is currently the eighth-fastest in the nation for the distance.
Uceny’s career on the track at Cornell has not always been smooth sailing. Coming from the small town of Plymouth, Ind., she struggled with balancing her various activities – from academic responsibilities, to jobs, to time on the track.
Concentrating on track for the entire year was also a big change from high school, where Uceny, an Indiana state champion in the 800 as a junior, was also a starting point guard for her varsity basketball team.
“Focusing on track all year is a tough job,” said head coach Lou Duesing. “The level of competition from week to week is intense. It can affect a person’s level of confidence.”
Her performances during her freshman year did not reflect the maturity and poise that Duesing had seen in Uceny before coming to Cornell, but after a summer away from Ithaca, she returned a different athlete from the one who left only three months prior.
“She had completely turned things around. She walked in the door as a different person,” Duesing said.
Uceny had an impressive sophomore year, starting off strong during the fall and continuing onto indoor season.
She broke her personal record in the 800 in 12 consecutive races and qualified for the NCAA championships, where she finished seventh and was given All-American honors.
In addition to succeeding on the track, Uceny also thrived academically. As a Communications major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, she was named to the academic all-Ivy team in the winter and was given national academic recognition by the U.S. Track Coaches’ Association.
Uceny’s sophomore outdoor season was just as incredible as her indoor season, as she anchored the 4×800 team, which broke both Cornell and Ivy League records, as well as recording the fifth-best time in the nation in 2005.
She brought down her own personal best in the 800 to 2:06.26, the third fastest in Cornell history, and missed competing in the NCAA Outdoor Championships by one spot.
The vast improvements that Uceny made from her freshman year into the next did not go unseen, as she earned most improved honors on her team for the 2004-2005 season.
“From a motivational standpoint, she has helped other people,” Duesing said.
“They see that good athletes can struggle, but that they can also learn from that struggle and improve.”
This year, Uceny has continued to impress. Already this season, she has broken the Barton Hall record in the 1000 meters with a time of 2:49.21 in only her second time competing in the event and met the NCAA provisional standard – used for determining qualifiers for NCAA championship – twice for the 800. The first time she met the standard, at the tri-meet between Harvard and Brown on Jan. 28, Uceny won the race by five seconds.
“To run five seconds faster than second place and run a national qualifier is impressive,” Duesing said.
Her times thus far are also ahead of where she was at this time last season, when she did not meet the provisional standard until the ECAC Championships at the end of February. Her best races, however, could still in the future.
“There are faster times still to be run,” Duesing said.
“She expects to run faster. I expect that with her fitness level, her performances in practices and race experience that she will.”
Archived article by Erin Garry
Sun Staff Writer