Bob Brown has been coaching at East Lansing for over three decades. So how many freshmen cross country runners has he seen like Zoe Morse?
“No one,” he says.
Even though Morse’s high school career is only two races old, she is already one of the best runners the school has ever had. At Michigan State’s Spartan Invitational on Sept. 14, Morse finished the 3.1 miles in 18:09, just 24 seconds shy of the school record.
“I wasn’t expecting to do very well in high school,” she says. “I had never run a 5K before.”
But Morse is no stranger to being at the top of her sport. She’s also part of the Olympic Development Program for soccer. As part of the ODP, she travels to North Carolina or California every two to three months to train with other top soccer players at her age.
During cross country season, Morse has soccer practice Tuesday through Thursday. She also has basketball practice on Monday nights and is expected to compete for a spot on the varsity team as a freshman.
Morse, though, embraces the busy schedule during cross country season.
“I originally did it because I thought running was fun, and it would be a good opportunity to cross-train for soccer,” she says.
But while running might be a secondary sport for Morse, her results say otherwise. As an eighth grader, for part of the track season, she held the fastest time for every distance between 200 meters and two miles.
“When she runs a race, she will go out in front and stay there because she doesn’t want to be beat,” Brown says.
Morse won’t be beating anyone for the time being, though. She broke her left wrist playing soccer on Sept. 22 and is sidelined from all sports for 2-4 weeks.
The injury might be her last chance to rest for a while.
She has her sights set on the U-17 World Cup in two years and is trying to model her game and her training after her idols – the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.
“They are so inspiring,” she says. “It’s cool to see other people love what they’re doing as much as I do.”