Meet the Rebels Gehl

Contributor Bill Peyton sat down for Q&A with one of Minnesota's best distance runners, Murray County Central-Fulda junior Morgan Gehl

The Gehl File:

Personal Bests: Cross Country State Meet Results: Track State Meet Results: 3200m
400 1:04.31 7th Grade 20:29 61st Place 7th Grade 12:17 16th Place
800 2:26.1 8th Grade 19:25 8th Place 8th Grade 11:16 5th Place
1600 5:02.1 9th Grade 18:35 4th Place 9th Grade 10:59 4th Place
3200 10:58.1 10th Grade 17:53 3rd Place 10th Grade 10:58 3rd Place
5K CC 17:46

How do you pronounce your last name?

It is pronounced like Gail (Gehl).

What were your first sports?

My first sport was basketball which I first started playing in 5th grade.  I first got involved in track & field in 6th grade. (Morgan Gehl attends Fulda High School which combines with Murray County Central for cross country.)

Is basketball your favorite sport? Tell us a little about your basketball career?

I wouldn't say that basketball is my favorite sport, but it is nice to take some time away from running. Last year in basketball our Fulda team joined with Heron Lake- Okabena, we are a young team. I also earned best defensive player on our team.

Why did you become a distance runner? Who was most influential in helping you make that decision?

I became a distance runner because my Aunt Julie Kramer was a good distance runner, and I knew that I would love to run. My mom was also a huge part of making my decision to run. One big reason I wanted to start running was to beat my best friend/cousin Khloe Gehl

How has your training progressed over the five years you have been a distance runner?

My training intensifies after ever meet. I would improve on my times every time I ran. It encouraged me to work harder, not only in practice but also the way I did things at home. As I was growing, I could tell I was getting stronger. 

How did you learn race strategy?

In practice Coach Dominick Damm has us do a lot of pace workouts, for example 6 X 800s, 1 mile repeats, and 24 X 200s all at race pace.  

What mistakes did you make when you were younger that you no longer make today?

One mistake that I can remember, was that my running form wasn't very good. So, my brother showed me how to run with proper form. 

Who are your varsity teammates? How have they helped you?

Our varsity girls' team is Ashley Overgaauw and Amanda Overgaauw, Josie Harms, Ella Stapek, Brylei Schreier and Ryanna Schreier, Victoria Pierson, and Brealyn Damm. My team is very encouraging and supportive, and a very kind group of girls. I had the opportunity to run with an awesome group of boys on our cross-country team, last year, Spencer Wajer, Cameron Kresko, Nate Everson, Jack Pierson, and Justin Clarke. They pushed me to run better and really encouraged me to do my best. They really helped me when I needed it, along with Mr. Damm. 

Who are your coaches in cross country and track & field?

My cross-country coach is Mr. Damm. My track coach is Mr. Gary Hildebrandt. I have had Mr. Damm as a coach since 7th grade. He has influenced me the most. We have tougher workouts, and he has taught me to run stronger and braver. 

How did Mr. Damm help you?

When I first started cross country in 7th grade I ran junior high, and I was very nervous and scared. It the beginning of the year I would run with the pack and then as the season went on, I started to run braver because I knew where I was at. Then when I started winning junior high Mr. Damm, put me in my first varsity meet, which was at the Worthington Turkey Trot. I was the first MCC runner to come through the finish line, and I kind of surprised myself.  Mr. Damm was a runner himself, and he runs with us during practice. It's nice because he really pushes us when he runs beside us.

Who are some common opponents who have pushed you? Have you enjoyed talking to some of them? 

Grace Drietz of Canby-Minneota and Tenley Nelson of Luverne have pushed me to be better.

Drietz has a personal best of 18:30 and finished 6th in last year's state meet. So far this year Drietz has won two cross country meets.  Nelson has a personal best of 18:13 and finished 7th in last year's state meet. Nelson has won three cross country meets this year.  Gehl, Drietz, and Nelson are all from southwestern Minnesota!

Do you ever talk to your opponents?  Who do you enjoy talking to the most?

I really don't talk to any of my opponents. When it is about time to start warming up, I usually go off somewhere in the course away from people and concentrate. I would jog and do some dynamics. Then when it's time I go to the start line and warm up some more and then I run. At the finish line I will usually say good job to the second-place girl. Then I will go to my camp take my spikes off and then go out for my cool down and cheer on everybody else. When we do awards, I always shake their hands and say good job.  

Have you had some injuries? What did you do to fix them?

During track season last year, I had some tightness in my right quad. I stretched it more and did some cupping. God has really protected me from any injuries. I'm very thankful to Him for protecting me.

Why are you a good runner?

I believe God has given me this talent. I have some of God's people praying for me, God helps me to make good decisions in my life.

Quote from Mr. Damm: "As I have coached over the years, I can say for certain that the single most important reason that Morgan is so good at running is how much she hates to lose. I have coached others that hated it nearly as much, but not to her extent. Next would be her work ethic, I have never once heard her moan or complain about a hard workout. In fact, she will sometimes question if we have done enough. She has a family history with some very good athletes in it, so there is definitely a natural ability in there as well. 

As for strengths and weaknesses, I have a hard time coming up with any weaknesses. Strengths however she has in abundance. First is her will to win, she doesn't care who you are, when she is racing you, she will do everything in her power to win. I have seen Morgan run against the best and she does not back down, I have seen her run when sick as a dog and be disappointed she didn't win. As I said above her work ethic is phenomenal she does everything she is asked and tries her hardest to hit her splits  Lastly I think a great strength of Morgan's is her humility, she knows she is one of the best but you would never ever know it talking to her.  

Getting better when you get to Morgan's level is harder to do, I think running more miles and harder workouts are not going to help too much at this point. Being a three-sport athlete is an important thing for athletes and taking some time away from running to play basketball might keep her from dropping a second or two on the track or during cross but it also helps as many coaches will tell you." 

What is it like to run at Murray County Central?

Murray County Central is located in Slayton.  They bring in many students from surrounding communities such as Avoca, Chandler, Currie, Iona, and Lake Wilson.  The cross-country program combines with Fulda.  I love running for Murray County Central/Fulda. One week we have practice in Fulda then the next week in Slayton. We run on all kinds of surfaces, wherever Mr. Damm says to run, we run. I have run on the track and ran lots of hills.

What makes running at Murray County Central fun?

The people from Slayton are very nice. I'm glad to be paired up with them, we are a very good team. It's nice to have our towns close together. 

What do you do besides run?

I play basketball. I'm out for Band and Choir, National Honor Society, and I take Piano lessons.

What do you hope to do after high school and beyond?

I hope to attend college.  I am undecided on a profession.