For an athlete, there is nothing more tragic than finding oneself too injured to participate. It is frustrating, heartbreaking, and an altogether horrible experience. Sometimes, getting seriously injured even cripples an athlete mentally, keeping them from performing at their usual level of excellence.
Junior Allie Morris, however, is different.
After suffering an unusual illness called rhabdomyolysis, Morris did not compete for the majority of Spring Track last season. Instead, she recorded times, moved hurdles, cheered her teammates, and quietly grew frustrated with her inability to run. Over the summer when she recovered from her illness, Morris made a difficult decision: she left Walpole Swimming to train for her first season as a part of Walpole Girls Cross Country. Although this decision was not an easy one, she has no regrets.
Against Wellesley and Dedham on an boiling September 11 (the temperatures were in the mid 90’s), Morris came in First Place overall to lead the Rebels to a 28-29 victory over Wellesley. The Wednesday after, on a mild September 18, she broke the school record to lead the Rebels to victory over Milton with a time of 16:05. Then, on September 25, she shaved off over ten seconds to set a new school record of 15:51.
This year, Morris has been a firebrand for Walpole Girls Cross Country. She began her season running in the front pack with senior Captain Kristen Coyne, senior Jackie Applin, and sophomore Alyssa Murphy. By working hard and staying focused, Morris quickly moved to the front of the pack and became Walpole’s top female runner.
When Morris joined the team, the girl’s team was coming off one of their best seasons yet. Last season, the girl’s cross country team won the Bay State Herget Champions title for the first time since 1994, and defeated two very formidable teams in difficult races, Wellseley and Weymouth. However, this season, the girls were facing the same difficult competition minus their top two runners— senior Gina Conti and alumni Megan Peterson. Thankfully, Morris came prepared to step up and took over Conti’s spot as the girls team’s top runner.
This cross country season marked her first time as a top runner. Morris’ times in track— including a 5:53 1 mile and a 12:52 2 mile— were fast, often better than most of her competition. Although Morris was a good runner and did score points in meets, she never qualified for the Division II State Meet, or ran with the top girls’ pack. However, now Morris is doing more than running with them, she is leading the pack.
Such a change in pace was new for her. When discussing her new role on the team, Morris said, “It’s different for me, because I have never really been in this position before. It does put more pressure on me, but at the same time it pushes me to keep improving.”
So far, Morris has played a huge role in all three of the team’s wins, and gets better every race.
If a bystander saw her running now, they would not have guessed that last spring, Morris had not ran a single race. In fact, she had not been able to participate at all in track due to a disease called rhabdomyolysis. This disease is caused when damaged muscles release a protein, myoglobin, into the bloodstream. Once myoglobin enters the bloodstream, it can cause serious damage to the kidney cells and, if left untreated, lead to kidney failure. Symptoms of the disease include: weakness, joint pain, and muscle fatigue.
However, this daunting illness did not halt Morris in her tracks. In fact, rhabdomyolysis led her to try even harder. “It never really felt like an option to give up running,” said Morris “I just decided that once I was able to run again I would work harder and push myself more so that I could improve.”
And improve she did. Morris worked hard all summer, changing her diet and making sure to take care of herself properly in order to prevent her rhabdomyolysis from coming back. These little steps towards better health caused her to improve and build herself up to a new level of excellence. When she broke the school record a second time on the course, it became clear to all that her effort had not been wasted. Morris’ good friend, junior Kathryn Lawton, was so inspired by Morris’ recovery that she teared up after watching Morris beat her old record. “I’m so happy and proud of her success.”, Lawton said, “She worked very hard this summer to be where she is. She makes it look easy but only because she worked so hard.”
As the season continues on, Morris hopes to keep up the level of excellence she has set for herself through her incredible races and competitive nature. She hopes, along with the rest of the girl’s team, to qualify for the Cross Country All State Meet on November 16, and thus, become the first team in Walpole Girl’s Cross Country history to run there. Undoubtably, if Morris continues performing at the standard she made for herself, and the team, she will continue to do great things this season. After all the hard work she has put into her recovery and running, Morris is the picture of a dedicated athlete and an inspiration to all.