Photo courtesy UNC Athletic Communications
Like so many other runners, Morgan Ilse started her running career out simply: seventh-grade cross country to stay in shape for soccer. By the end of her freshman year of high school she was running spring track instead of playing soccer, and the rest, as they say, is history. Morgan now takes inspiration from professional runners like Colleen Quigley, a former ACC athlete herself.
A native of Dunwoody, Ga., Ilse grew up a Carolina fan, and though the Tar Heels weren’t on her initial list of schools she was actively considering, her list got eventually whittled down to just UNC and Notre Dame. In the end it came down to a gut feeling, and something inside her knew that North Carolina would be where she wants to spend her college career. Ilse is now a junior coming off of an All-ACC performance as a sophomore last season, with a greater sense of leadership on a women’s team that lost no athletes to graduation.
Ilse says that this year does have a different feeling after she spent two years essentially becoming accustomed to college-level cross country. After she spent much of her first year shocked by the ability of runners at that level, she finished 16th at the ACC Championship meet to earn All-ACC honors.
And then with only five runners on the roster, “last year really began the leadership process and this year especially actually being an upperclassman I definitely feel like I have been able to and need to step up vocally and through my actions,” she said.
According to Ilse, this year's team is further along that at the same time last season. On the day of her interview, she said a morning workout had been almost three times the length of a similar workout from last season. For a now veteran runner, she was able to appreciate seeing the growth of the team over that time period.
Ilse won’t race on September 2nd at the Elon Opener but says she is looking forward to the Louisville Classic on the 30th. That race will be her first big race of the season and holds even more significance for her because it will be her first time back at Louisville since her senior year of high school. After that, she will look to have a good outing at the Penn State National before attempting to defend and improve upon her All-ACC performance at the conference championships at the end of October.