It is every college athlete’s goal to succeed in between the lines and also in the classroom. Two-time Ivy League champion sprinter Marvin Morgan has far exceeded that goal, and is the true exemplification of what it means to be a scholar-athlete.
Track has been a part of Morgan’s life since the fourth grade when he began track alongside playing football. The intensity and individualized nature of sprints is what made Morgan fall in love with track. During his final years in high school, he decided to shift his focus solely on the sport after realizing that it was something that he could compete in at a distinguished collegiate program.
Not only has Morgan competed at the collegiate level, but he has succeeded at it. In 2019, Morgan was Ivy League champion in the 100-meter dash at the Outdoor Heptagonals as well as in the 60m at Indoor Heps. Alongside two first-team All Ivy selections, Morgan also holds the program record in the indoor 60m.
“The track part is easy to quantify, but I think it’s all the other ways that Marvin has impacted our team and Penn is really a cool thing to see as a coach,” coach Steve Dolan said.
Now a team captain, Morgan is a leader in the locker room by the way in which he lifts the team’s spirits and connects with everyone in the locker room. Aside from his enthusiastic personality, Morgan leads by example for what it means to be a scholar-athlete.
“In the beginning his focus was like, ‘Yeah I want to run fast,’ and he’s done a pretty good job of running fast and now he’s like, ‘How can I be a mentor for people younger,’” senior jumper Demetri Whitsett said.
When deciding where to pursue his college career, Penn was the natural choice for Morgan. The New Jersey native took several high school trips to the Penn Relays, and the atmosphere during his visits was a large part of his decision to pursue track at Penn.
“Every year you get to walk into that stadium for the first time and you’re just blown away,” Morgan said. “Once I came on my official visit to Penn, I was like ‘I can actually race here every single day.’ That was just crazy and just blew my mind.”
While the athletic atmosphere of Franklin Field was a large part of his decision to compete at Penn, Morgan also loved how Penn catered to his academic interests. While he was growing up, Morgan’s uncle worked for NASA, and that was where his initial interests in astrophysics and outer space began.
“When I was finally able to take a physics class in high school, that’s what really got me excited. I always heard that whatever excites you is what you should pursue, no matter how hard it is,” Morgan said.
Morgan took his excitement and interest from high school and began tackling that at Penn. The summer after his sophomore year, the astrophysics major began his undergraduate research through the Penn Undergraduate Research Mentorship Program. That summer allowed him to explore stars in the Milky Way Galaxy using the Gaia space telescope and expand his research skills. Professor Robyn Sanderson, his mentor for PURM and his advisor for his senior research project, was blown away by Morgan’s work ethic and research skills.
“The same mindset that he uses for track has come in here to work in research because he figures out what to concentrate on and then work on improving that,” Sanderson said. “The discipline and the way of setting your sights on something that you have to do for athletic preparation is good preparation for the kind of work under pressure that you sometimes have to do in academics.”
This past summer Morgan was a research intern at the Search for Extraterrestrial Life Institute, where he monitored brightness of young stars, which was a new and interesting topic for him to explore. Morgan has now shifted his focus away from stars as he works on his senior research project in which he studies the early evolution of the planets in our solar system.
“This is something where if you want to do it for a living then it’s going to be because you love it the way Marvin loves it,” Sanderson said.
While being a champion athlete and researcher, Morgan still manages to find time to hang out with friends, be a member of the National Society of Black Engineers, and work with the Young Quakers program.
“Yes it’s cool to be on the track, but we also are at an Ivy League school, and we want to succeed when our track career is done and [Morgan] definitely internalized that,” Whitsett said. “He’s doing a lot and people younger than him are seeing that and realizing that they can do it too.”
The key part of Morgan’s time at Penn has been his passion, both on the track and in the classroom. His passion has not only driven him to be the best scholar-athlete he can be, but has also inspired every teammate in the locker room.
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