Champion grad in quest for Olympic berth

Champion native Morgan Tracey seemingly has done it all.

From wildland firefighting out West to passing the bar exam, the 1999 Champion High School graduate has lived quite an accomplished life already. That interesting life has led her to become, since 2010, a skeleton athlete.

Skeleton, which is essentially the single-person version of bobsledding, is something that one of Tracey’s brothers, Landon, got involved in several years ago. But, with Morgan out West and then eventually going on to Mercyhurst University to study political science and become a lawyer, she didn’t have the time to get involved.

However, Tracey eventually became interested in the sport and promised herself that she would make it a career – once she passed the bar exam. In February 2010, she did just that.

“Right after I passed the bar, I went to a combine to try out for the U.S. team, and I successfully qualified,” she said. “In the U.S. program, as far as the women who qualify on to the next phase, about 15 make it. I was fortunate enough to be one of the 15.”

Morgan’s current goal is to qualify for the Winter Olympics, which take place Feb. 9-25, 2018, in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Currently, she’s training in Calgary, where she works anywhere between three and six hours a day.

During those sessions, she lifts weights and works on her sprinting, which is still the area in which she needs most improvement.

“We sprint for 30 meters, and then we get on the sled,” Tracey explained.

“The Calgary facility has a start ramp and is a year-round winter facility, it’s iced and everything. I’ll be here training for about a month.”

Tracey said that only three athletes will make the U.S. Women’s skeleton team.

While she said that she’s had some growing pains along the way, she recently finished fifth in a U.S. trial, just hundredths of seconds off of the leader’s time.

“It really takes about eight years of training before you can realistically go to the Olympics,” Tracey said. “About four to six weeks after learning to slide, I started competing. But getting to the world cup level definitely takes some years.”

Tracey said that building her speed off the line is still her biggest weakness, as she’s still trying to overcome some injuries from her previous professions, which still plague her to this day.

While she explains that all skeleton tracks are different, typically the top tracks in the world will produce speeds of up to 90 miles per hour, or about 5G’s of acceleration.

“I’ve done some pretty cool things in my life, but this definitely ranks right up there,” Tracey said.

Just getting to Calgary, however, has been an adventure in itself. Because the United States doesn’t fund its athletes, it’s up to the athletes to find the funding to continue on with their careers.

While other athletes have raised money to fund their careers, Morgan said she was a little bit reluctant at first.

“I felt a little bit uncomfortable about doing RallyMe (a funding website for amateur athletes) but I knew it was the only way to continue my career,” she said.

“So far, I’ve gotten great feedback and tons of support. Some of my former teachers at Champion (High School) have sent me emails and told me that they’re cheering me on. That’s the great thing about being from a small town like that.”

RallyMe has helped fund her training in Calgary, and Tracey said there are different ways someone can donate money to become part of her team, which includes tax deductible donations.

As for what her career will be beyond 2018, Tracey thinks it’s still up in the air. But, if she has it her way, there won’t be a career change anytime soon.

“It’s very expensive to compete (in skeleton),” Tracey said. “But if I can recover (healthwise) and I still can afford to be in the sport, then I’ll keep doing it.”