PLYMOUTH — Morgan Uceny may have been the first Plymouth-area native to run in the Olympics, but if two young area hopefuls have it their way, she won’t be the last.
This past summer, Uceny’s run to the 2012 Olympic finals captivated the hearts and minds of people around the world and the town of Plymouth in particular. And while the community watched breathlessly as the 2003 Plymouth High School grad made history, two PHS track athletes, senior Meagan Fisher and junior Mason Reed, paid special attention. What they saw inspired them to rededicate themselves to their sport.
“My childhood dream was always to go to the Olympics. Morgan Uceny, after seeing her run, it just inspired me that I needed to push myself harder,” said Reed. “When I saw that Morgan was the very first person from Plymouth to go, I just knew that I wanted to go and be there with her. I wanted to represent Plymouth and the state of Indiana as well.”
“Watching her struggle and fight and compete and accomplish all that she’s done is just outstanding. It’s so inspiring,” said Fisher. “We had a practice during this cross country season where we watched one of her trials to get to the Olympics, and after that a lot of us were just so excited. We only did a mile at practice that day, but we ran it so fast. It was so much fun, and it really does make the dream seem more reachable and more possible.”
Fisher and Reed are hoping to get their first taste of international competition at the Down Under Track and Field Meet at Griffith University’s Gold Coast Campus in Sydney, Australia next July. The invitation-only meet will last three days from July 5-7 and will pit top-level athletes from the U.S., Australia and New Zealand against one another at the very facility built as a training ground for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.
Both Reed and Fisher see the meet as an important stepping stone into college and beyond.
“I’ve worked so hard to achieve this,” said Reed. “It represents multiple things for me. It’s just amazing. It’s going to be really cool, and I do look forward to going to college for track. And I really hope to get my training for the Olympics before anything.”
“I know she’s excited about it, I know her family is excited about it. It should be a great opportunity,” said PHS Girls Track Coach Paul Patrick of Fisher. “I know she wants to run next year; we know she’s going on to college. She’s a really good athlete. She high jumps, she runs the 400 and the 800. She’s run the 200, and she’s a good cross country runner. She’s just got a gift, and I think the more she gets out and sees competition outside of her area and outside even her state, she’ll maybe get a better appreciation of where she is with her talent.
“I hope it’s a good thing for her, and I hope she can use it as a kind of springboard into a good collegiate career.”
While Uceny made her Olympic run in the 1500, she started her career as an 800-meter specialist like Fisher and Reed. But while Uceny started out her high school career as a cross country runner before opting out of the sport as a sophomore, Fisher and Reed both joined the team in their junior years as a way to prepare for the spring track season.
Fisher is a three-time Rochester Sectional champion in the open 800 and a member of Plymouth’s 2011 Warsaw Regional 3200 relay championship team, which wrapped up its season in 11th place at the IHSAA State Meet last spring. She’s missed state berths in the individual 800 by less than a second the past two years, set an indoor record in the 880 at the Culver Academies Indoor Relays last year, and she’s helped the Lady Pilgrims cross country team to semistate berths each of the past two fall seasons.
“Meagan is a wonderful runner to coach. She’s very coachable and very eager to learn, and she’s been like that since she was a freshman when I started coaching her on the track side,” said PHS Cross Country Coach and assistant track coach Jami Holm. “I just wish she’d gone out for cross country a little earlier. She went out as a junior so I feel like there’s so much more she’s potentially capable of in the sport, but I get to see her in the spring so I feel like I’m not losing or gaining anything. It’s been a lot of fun to teach her. I feel like she’s one of those girls that wants to know so much; she wants to know why... and she wants to take that knowledge further into her career, and I think that’s how you get to be a good athlete, and that obviously shows.”
Reed is a two-year regional qualifier for PHS in the 4X800. While the Pilgrims narrowly missed out on the Northern Lakes Conference championship in the relay last season, Reed’s eye-opening 1:59 split in that race gave the squad a lead with two legs to go. A former football player with the Rockies, he decided to pursue running full time this year as a way to further his track goals, and he recently helped push Plymouth into fifth place at the 2012 Culver Academies Cross Country Sectional for a berth to the CMA Regional, where he wrapped up his first-ever fall running season with a creditable 44th place finish.
“It’s amazing how far he’s come in the short period of time that I’ve had him,” Holm said. “He kind of flip-flops between here and Wisconsin in the summer so it was hit and miss for him and I was little reluctant, but the kid had a drive like I haven’t seen in a long time, and he wants to do well and he likes being successful. I think this is a wonderful sport for him as opposed to football because he sees those mini-successes, which continues his want and his will to go further. He’s wonderful to have in training. He’s so motivating to the other boys, he hits our workouts with flying colors… I think he wants to go further with this down the road, and whatever he’s gained in the small time that I’ve been with him will be wonderful.”
What Fisher and Reed share is a world of potential, and they’re hoping to showcase that potential to the world at the Down Under Track Meet next July.
But with an estimated price tag of $5,500, a trip to the invitational isn’t cheap, and they’re asking the community for help.
Reed’s family is holding a bake sale and raffle and selling shirts at the PHS boys basketball game with Triton Nov. 27. They’re also planning other fundraisers down the road. Fisher’s family plans to put together a fun run this spring to help raise funds for the Down Under Meet.
Both are collecting whatever donations community members are willing to spare and can be reached via email — Reed’s family at email@example.com  and Fisher’s at LeslieDF@comcast.net .
“It means a lot having me and Meagan represent Plymouth. We worked really hard to achieve this,” said Reed.
“I’m not from a rich family. I’d take anything to help, whatever people can give me.”
“Every time that I’ve told anyone they’ve made me feel excited by smiling or asking questions or asking how they can help,” said Fisher. “That’s really exciting to me that so many people are willing to help. Right now we’re making progress, but we’re still not there yet. I’m grateful from the bottom of my heart for anyone who can give anything, even if it’s a dollar.”