By David Fong
PORTLAND, Ore. — When Morgan Gigandet traveled across the country last week to compete in the Nike Cross Nationals, she saw a number of new and unusual sights.
Most notably, the Troy High School senior cross country runner finally got to see what the backs of other runners’ jerseys actually look like.
That was a novel experience for Gigandet, who went undefeated and — with the exception of a handful of races — largely unchallenged this fall during her final high school cross country season. After finishing sixth at the Nike Regional in Indiana to qualify for nationals, however, Gigandet finished 20th at the national meet in 18:09.
“It was a different experience for me — everyone was right where I was, or even faster than me,” Gigandet said of competing at nationals. “That’s not something I’m used to. Even at the start, the girl right in front of me slipped and I had to try to maneuver around her. But I looked at it as a positive. It was a good learning experience for college.”
Gigandet spent a week in Oregon — considered by many to be the mecca of American distance running — not only training with the other national meet competitors, but also visiting Nike headquarters. While there, she also got sick, which may have hindered her in the actual race, which was run in the rain on a muddy course.
“It was fun,” she said. “But it was really cloudy, gray and wet. I got a cold on Monday and didn’t start feeling better until Thursday. I still had some breathing issues when I ran the race.”
Gigandet — who captured a Division I state title this fall and was a four-time state qualifier and three-time state placer in cross country for the Trojans — will have a host of Division I college programs from which to choose when national signing day arrives. She said her current leaders are Boise State University, Iowa State University and Furman University in South Carolina. She’s also considering the University of Missouri and Arizona State University.
Ultimately, Gigandet said, one of the biggest things she’ll be looking for in a college is the same thing she was looking for when competing at last weekend’s national meet — the opportunity to compete against runners who will challenge her and make her get better as a runner.
“Coaching style really matters to me — I want a coach who is really dedicated and into distance running,” she said. “I want to be with teammates who want to be there to compete and not just to joke around or mess around and party. That’s just not how I am. I want to be on a team with people who are faster than me. I want people who are going to challenge me to be as good as I can be.”
Gigandet said she doesn’t expect to make a final college decision until February. After that, she’ll compete one final season for the Troy girls track and field team. She’s already a three-time state placer and wouldn’t mind adding to her already incredible resume this spring.
“I definitely want to PR (personal record) in the 3,200 this year,” she said. “After that, I just want to have fun my senior year. I think winning state in cross country took some of the pressure off for track, because I’ve already cleared that hurdle. I just want to run my best and go out on a good note.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong