REXBURG--Megan Morrin comes from a running family, but it was not until this fall that she competed in cross-country.
In her second year on Madison High School's varsity girls soccer team, Morrin started playing soccer at age six in Utah. Offseason training for both sports, however, went so well that she decided to compete in both simultaneously this fall for the Bobcats.
It was not a decision she took lightly, and she credited her coaches and teammates of both sports for helping to accommodate her decision.
"They've been the best support system," said Morrin, a junior wing. "Both of my coaches have been good to work with. My cross-country coach Keysha Stutz texts me every week to say, 'Here's the plan. What do you think you can handle?' I also run a lot for soccer, so it's more like killing two birds with one stone."
Madison head girls soccer coach Jaymon Birch said it was an easy 'yes' for him when Morrin asked about competing in both sports this fall. He could relate a bit due to his background. A 1995 Madison graduate, he ran cross-country in high school and later played soccer in college.
"She has been so easy to work with," Birch said. "She's that type of kid. She's first here, last to leave. We'll get done with practice and some of the girls will be heading home and they'll see her getting her run in for cross-country. If anybody can do both, it's her."
Morrin runs three to four times per week and has flexibility on which meets she competes in based on her soccer schedule. She sometimes rises at 5:45 a.m. to run before school, and on the mornings she doesn't run, she is catching up on homework. She's been Madison's top girl finisher in the three meets she's run in so far, which she said was unexpected as a first-year cross-country runner.
"It is just a little surprising," Morrin said. "I'm definitely not where I want to be right now, but I have such great cross-country teammates who have been able to push me to be better."
In soccer, Morrin has become part of a high scoring Madison team that is 10-2-0 overall and 4-0-0 in 5A District 5-6 play through Tuesday. Morrin attributed her scoring surge to being more mentally engaged this year.
"I think I just decided this summer that if I want to play soccer, I'm gonna do it well," Morrin said. "I've always practiced, but I'm putting in more time."
Birch described Morrin as a 'super coachable' athlete who within the last year has honed in on things her coaches have encouraged her to fine tune. One of those strengths is reading crosses.
"Most of her goals have been by the back post where someone just crossed the ball," Birch said. "That's hard to do."
The balancing act reaches another level this month with overlapping district and state tournament schedules. While Madison could qualify for state in both sports, she said soccer is her priority for the postseason. The 5A District 5-6 soccer championships begin the weekend of Oct. 11 while 5A District 5-6 cross-country championships are currently scheduled for Oct. 24, the day the 5A soccer state championships begin in Boise. She added, however, that she intends to run in the Nike Cross Northwest Regional Championships on Nov. 16 to see what she can do on Eagle Island State Park's course for the first time.
While she said the balancing act has brought its challenges, particularly with keeping up with school work, she is enjoying her first cross-country season.
"It's such a fun sport," Morrin said. "I love the idea that I can determine how good I am. It definitely helps that Madison has such a great program and coaches who push us to be better."
Her cross-country debut also gave her an enduring memory and full circle moment on Sept. 14 at the BYU Autumn Classic in Provo. She not only got to compete, but watched older sister Rachel (2018 Madison graduate) run for BYU in the women's race. Morrin said she looks up to Rachel, whom she credited for encouraging her to join track her freshman year at Madison.
"I think that was the best kick I've ever had because I saw her at the finish line and I didn't want to let her down," Morrin said.
Bob Conley Invitational provides state course preview
If Pocatello appears a bit more crowded with buses from multiple school districts on Thursday, there is good reason. The annual Bob Conley Invitational takes place Thursday afternoon at Portneuf Wellness Complex, the site of this year's cross-country state championships scheduled for Nov. 2. This is the first time the state meet will take place on this course since 2016.
As of Saturday, 58 teams are registered for the meet. District 3 is sending 11 teams, including three-time defending 5A boys champion Rocky Mountain. District 6 has 21 teams registered and will have all five classifications represented. The meet has six high school races, starting with the JV girls race at noon. Varsity races are scheduled for 1:20 p.m. for Varsity B girls, 2 p.m. for Varsity A girls, 2:40 p.m. for Varsity B boys and 3:20 p.m. for Varsity A boys.
Madison grad Hawkins competes at worlds today
Chari Hawkins, professional heptathlete and 2010 Madison graduate, competes in heptathlon today at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. Heptathlon begins at 8:05 a.m. Mountain Time. NBC Sports Network has live coverage beginning at 7:30 a.m.