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PHCC's Monroe Morse makes the most of his national championship race
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PHCC's Monroe Morse makes the most of his national championship race

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Monroe Morse

Patrick Henry Community College Cross Country Coach Andre Kidd nearly tackled runner Monroe Morse with excitement after Morse finished running the NJCAA National Championship race earlier this month in Massachusetts.

There was good reason for excitement too. Morse finished the 8K in 28:12.44 and finished 16th out of 176 runners. He was one spot away from being named all-american.

“I had no idea. I did not expect to get that high up,” Morse said earlier this week. “I was really excited. He about tackled me.”

It was the biggest race Morse, a Patrick County High School graduate, had ever run. The former Cougar has been running since he was in sixth grade, and started taking it seriously a year later.

Those years and hundreds of races under his belt were enough to prepare him for the national championship in his freshman year of college. Like most competitive runners, he’s figured out a way to put himself in a zone when he runs, and when that happens he doesn’t really remember most of the race.

That focus put him in a good spot to compete well that day.

“I was nervous, excited and a adrenaline rush,” he said. “I felt good the whole time. I started out a little nervous as usual but you go out, stick with the pack, keep a positive mentality the whole time no matter what kind of obstacles you go through.”

“I knew he could, I just didn’t know what race he was going to do it in,” Kidd said. “When he passed me a mile to two miles in and he was near the front of the pack I knew he was going to have a good race. He’s not the kind of kid that will back off. So I knew once I saw him in the front of the pack that if I pushed him he would stay up close.

“Out of him I saw a lot of determination. His hard work. I think he kind of started seeing that his hard work paid off.”

Morse had a top 15 spot near the end of the race after passing others to get near the front. But a last second pass took the all-American spot away, and the PHCC freshman missed it by less than four seconds.

It was still the best finish at the national championship by a Patriots runner not just this year, but in school history. Plus, Morse has another season to try to best his time and finish his PHCC career off right, and he can go into next year knowing what to expect out of an 8K race and how to train for it better.

Plus, he has indoor and outdoor track, both of which he plans to do for PHCC after taking a two week break between seasons, something he said he is not complaining about.

“It helps with the recharge and helps the transition over from running through the woods to circles,” he said.

But even if he’s not practicing, he’s still running on his own, something he said he’s done nearly every day since he was in seventh grade.

“I love running. I always have,” he said. “I plan to run my whole life. Right now anyway… It’s hard to describe. It’s got its own feeling. After running for so long it becomes addictive. So if I don’t run for a day everyone can tell.”

PATRIOTS COMPETE

Morse was one of six Patriots to compete in the men’s national championship race, along with four in the women’s race. For the first time PHCC had sent a full team to nationals, Kidd said everyone did exactly what they set out to do.

“We talked before the race about staying with the pack, don’t get by yourself and just giving yourself a chance,” he said. “This is our last race. And I told all the kids pack running is big. You don’t feel like you’re on an island by yourself. And just go out there and compete and have fun. This is a national meet. And that’s what we did we set the goals we were looking for. All the kids ran really well. Their best times all year.”

With this being Kidd’s first season with the Patriots, he said having a strong team of runners who are not only competitive week-to-week, but work hard to get better every race made the transition to college coaching an easy one.

“You have kids who want to run, who enjoy it and they’re ready to work hard in it,” he said. “You don’t have to fuss as much and things like that. You get them to work and then they see that progress. And that was my thing I tried to get them to see that progress every race. If we’re seeing progress every race we’re moving in the right direction and we were able to do that this year which made it a lot easier for me to plan their workouts and things like that.”

All of the cross country runners are also running indoor track for PHCC, with other sprinters also joining the mix. Kidd combined both team’s practices starting on October 1, and their first meet will be December 1 at the JLD College Kick-Off Classic in Winston-Salem.

Cara Cooper is a sports writer for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at cara.cooper@martinsvillebulletin.com

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