By Luke Severt
For the Troy Daily News
TROY — Immortalized on banners hanging from the rafters in the Trojan Activities Center are eight names forever etched in Trojan history — the names of those who have won a state championship as an individual at Troy High School.
For years, there were only seven. But in 2014, a freshman runner began her high school career competing in cross country and track for the Trojans. Four years later, she graduated as one of the most accomplished athletes in the history of the school.
As Morgan Gigandet prepares to leave Troy and move 600 miles away onto the campus of Iowa State University to continue her running career on both the cross country and track teams, she reflected on the time she spent in her hometown with great joy.
How could she not? In her high school career, she broke the school record in every distance event but the steeplechase. She qualified for state in both cross country and track in each of her four years. She placed in these meets three times each.
She had an unprecedented senior cross country season in 2017, where she was named the Ohio Gatorade Athlete of the Year for her sport and qualified for the Nike Cross National meet. To Gigandet, none of these accolades compare to the highlight of her season, and the highlight of her career.
On a chilly Saturday morning in early November at National Trail Raceway in Hebron, Gigandet made it eight.
“Winning state my senior year is probably the most important because I’ve come so close so many times, and to have a perfect day on my last try was amazing,” she said.
At halftime during a Troy boys basketball game the following winter, her perfect day was immortalized, as her banner now hangs with those who have come before her.
“I always thought I could be up there because I believe if you put your mind to something and work hard, it can happen,” she said. “It was really cool to see my own state banner up there to show all of my hard work payed off.”
And work hard she did. So much, in fact, that when asked what she will miss most about the city of Troy, her first answer is the variation of the local parks.
“The terrain is so different and you don’t get bored. We are very lucky to have so many close by.”
Among the other things she will miss are her family, because they always motivated her to improve, and they were always willing to join her for a run at any of these parks. Lastly, she will miss hugs. She has grown to love them, she said.
Throughout her career, the support she has felt is much deeper than a hug. A rather reserved person, she wasn’t the stereotypical star athlete. She was quiet, she was humble, and she never wanted too much attention at one time.
Despite her shy nature, she still felt the encouragement from her classmates and teachers at school.
“The support was great,” she said. “They motivated me to get better and reach my goals. Troy has meant a lot to me because it’s where I got to really grow as a runner. All of the people in Troy and at school were so kind and cared about you as a person.”
She knows that as she continues her running career, she will always be representing the city of Troy and the Trojans, and she will always have fans in her hometown.
“It’s definitely motivation to keep doing what I love,” she said. “It’s great to be surrounded by positive support. Knowing people believe in you makes all your dreams seem possible.”
Among the influential people Gigandet interacted with while in Troy were her coaches. She credits her junior high cross country coach and high school track coach Kurt Snyder for helping her fall in love with the sport, and high school cross country coach Kevin Alexander for helping her become the runner she is today.
“Their dedication to the sport and the athletes” is what stands out about both coaches to Gigandet. Alexander specifically went the extra mile to help Gigandet, she said, spending time training her for state and nationals and guiding her through the recruiting process.
“I realized I could run in college when I made a big jump my senior year,” she said. “Alexander really did a great job helping me know how the process works and what to expect. He’s very smart and helped me to look at what each program has to offer based on their program, team, coaching staff, facilities and academics.”
The perfect fit was Iowa State. Gigandet is looking forward to challenging herself at practice with people who are faster than her with the Cyclones.
After all, those have been pretty rare during her time in Troy.
Luke Severt is a sports writer for the Troy Daily News.