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Courtesy: Athletics Communications

Casey Takes Confidence Boost to NCAA Championships

Courtesy: cyclones.com
Release: 11/17/2011
         
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AMES, Iowa - With the experience of two complete collegiate cross country seasons under her belt, Iowa State sophomore Morgan Casey is getting used to competing on a championship-caliber team. Since her arrival in Ames in 2009, the Cyclone women have come away with five cross country team titles and posted their best team finish in the NCAA Championships in 25 years. Casey, a Gooselake, Iowa native, has played an active role in all of these accomplishments.

Casey was the only freshman on the 2010 women's cross country team not to redshirt and was thrown right into the deep end transitioning from competing for a Class 1A and 2A Iowa high school to an NCAA Division-I university against the best student-athletes in the nation.

"I was kind of intimidated by the other girls on the team but not as much as I was by everyone else that was on the starting line," Casey said. "It was just so much different. I was so excited to be a small fish in a big pond rather than a big fish in a small pond. I was eager for that aspect of it but wasn't quite prepared for how scary it was going to feel."

Now, as Monday's 2011 NCAA Cross Country Championships loom, Casey is coming off of what she calls her "breakout race." She ran to a 10th-place finish at the NCAA Midwest Regional last weekend, earning All-Region honors for the first time, helping the Cyclone women win back-to-back regional team titles.

"It was amazing," Casey said. "I couldn't really believe how much I had improved just in a couple of weeks. It gives me a lot of confidence because I'm finally seeing everything pay off and my goals coming into the season are changing. I'm setting higher goals for myself now than what I set in August. I definitely exceeded my own expectations."

Casey finished 20th at the 2011 Big 12 Cross Country Championships en route to the Iowa State women winning its first Big 12 cross country title in program history. She also recorded a 48th-place finish at the Roy Griak Invitational as the Cyclones took home the team title for the first time since 2009.

In her debut season for the Cyclones last fall, Casey finished 34th at the Midwest Regional, helping the women's team take home the team title, automatically qualifying them for the 2010 NCAA Championships. She says getting the race experience and competing in large-scale meets has given her more confidence this season. And confidence is just what Casey is looking for with the NCAA Championships now sitting only days away.

"Now going into nationals, I don't just want to be in the top-half," Casey said. "It gives me a lot confidence even though I know it's not going to be an easy task."

With two seasons of cross country eligibility remaining after this year, Ihmels sees Casey becoming one of the runners-to-watch for the Cyclones.

"If you go back and look at what some of the other young ladies in our program have accomplished, Morgan is way ahead of the curve," Iowa State head coach Corey Ihmels said. "She's making progress a lot quicker than what a lot of others did. She's going to continue to get better, and if she can stay healthy and stay focused, then I think she can be as good as anyone we've ever had."
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