Injury. Every athlete’s nightmare.
Whether it's an injury that takes an athlete out for a season or for just a few games, no athlete wants to be on the sidelines watching the sport they love.
Injury is something sophomore cross country and track and field runner Liv Morganti knows all too well. Even though the global pandemic halted all Ivy League athletics in 2020, Morganti suffered an injury that would have prevented her from running anyway.
Morganti’s high school running career ended prematurely following a lower back injury the January of her senior year. This injury took her out of competitions for an entire year. It wouldn’t be until March 2021, during her freshman year of college, that Morganti would compete again.
While nursing her injury, the Syracuse, N.Y. native grew frustrated being limited for so long.
“It’s hard when it’s a full year of not competing and doing the thing you love,” she said. “Running is a source of happiness and release in my life. Not having it definitely took a toll on me.”
She finally returned to action and made her collegiate debut Mar. 27, 2021, running the 1500m at the Penn Challenge. Indoor track season had been canceled that winter, so Morganti only competed in outdoor events. Regardless of the conditions, Morganti was grateful to be competing again.
In spite of gaining collegiate experience through a modified track season during the spring of 2021, Morganti still feels like a newcomer at times.
“Everything is still very new to me,” she said. "Even though I had a 'semi-track season' my freshman year, it still was not really the full collegiate athletic experience. So, it was definitely a learning curve for everyone.”
Morganti recently suffered another injury near the end of this past cross country season. She didn’t allow it to sideline her season and, for the most part, competed through it. However, she is disappointed that it prevented her from performing at her best.
Morganti credits her family, both figuratively and literally, for helping her through her injuries.
Coming from a family of runners, a “runner’s mentality” has been instilled in her from a young age. Both of her parents ran for Bucknell and her older brother ran for Brown and currently runs for Portland State as a graduate student. It’s the culture in which Morganti grew up.
Furthermore, Morganti sees the amazing group of girls she ran alongside all season as her best friends. To her, every meet just feels like "having fun with the besties". She describes the team of distance girls as close-knit. Everyone is someone to lean on.
Teammate and family support combined have pushed Morganti to establish the work ethic and mental toughness that got her to where she is now.
Injuries aside, Morganti has put up impressive numbers in the races in which she’s competed. During the 2021 outdoor track season, her second-place finish in the 3,000m steeplechase at the Quaker Invitational, clocking a time of 10:58.22, set a new personal best. She marked another personal best time in the 1,500m at the Penn Twilight event, crossing the finish line at 4:37.18.
Her 20th place finish at the Women’s Cross Country Ivy League Heptagonal Championship set another career-best time. She completed the 6k course with a time of 21:24.2.
Reflecting on her first collegiate cross country season, Morganti credits the Piane Notre Dame Invitational as her favorite meet all season.
“That was the first time I had ever flown on a plane or traveled long distance for a meet like that,” Morganti said. “It was a big, very competitive field. That was a super cool experience to get.”
Looking ahead to the upcoming track and field season, Morganti looks to ease into it — attempting to prevent her injury from flaring back up. Soon, she’ll find herself in the weight room a little bit more, lifting heavier, focusing on speed and strength rather than mileage.
Morganti’s main event is steeplechase. She is drawn to the extra level of difficulty. In distance, a runner’s focus is solely on… well, running. But in steeplechase, a runner’s focus can be broken up into running and hurdles.
Steeplechase carries over from Morganti’s high school career. She was a consistent contender in meets where steeplechase was involved. Speaking of high school, Morganti comes from a small one. Thus, coming to Penn gave her a sense of being a big fish in a small pond.
“At Penn, there are so many talented people,” Morganti said. “But I now have my teammates to lean on and that has definitely made things easier.”
Morganti hopes she and her team can snag another Ivy League Heptagonal Championship during the indoor track season. Penn women’s track and field team are the reigning IHEP champions. For outdoor track, Morganti is confident she could break the school record in steeplechase.
Morganti has already accomplished a lot in her short time at Penn. It is just the beginning though. With her drive, she’s bound to accomplish much more.