Seybert's Arduous Preparation Sets Standard for Hun Runners
By Bill Alden
Morgan Seybert was determined to make his last season of high school cross country something special.
The Hun School senior ran 70 miles a week this past summer, spicing his workouts with one-mile repeats at a blistering 5:00 pace.
Seybert didn't enter any road races over the summer months, preferring to save everything for the fall campaign.
Setting a school record in the first race of the season by running 16:24 on Hun's 3.1 mile course, Seybert served notice that he had moved to a higher level.
In the last few weeks, Seybert's arduous preparation paid off beyond even his hopes as he took second in the Prep A state championship race on October 29, won the Mercer County boys' cross country championship race on October 31 in a time of 16:15.8 over the 3.1 mile course at Veterans Park, and then capped his run by taking the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title at Peddie last Wednesday.
For Seybert, his achievements this fall are the product of making a deeper commitment to his running as a junior. "I really got into it seriously last year," recalled Seybert, who ran a 16:30 in winning the MAPL race by 27 seconds. "Our coach Sean McCaffrey got me to look at running in a totally different way. He was so enthusiastic, he made me realize that every day running is a great day."
Even with that enthusiasm, Seybert wasn't quite expecting his recent run of success. "My dad asked me what I was hoping for before our races at the end of the season and I told him my dream would be to win counties and MAPL and come in second in states," said Seybert, who suffered a stress fracture last fall and watched the 2002 Mercer County meet on crutches. "I did the best I could. During these races, I've felt so comfortable. I forget about everything."
The major highlight for Seybert was winning the county race, an accomplishment never before achieved by a Hun runner. "The counties were the biggest thing for me," acknowledged Seybert, who got out of the gate in that race with a blazing 4:42 mile on the way to a winning margin of 13 seconds.
"It's the only time we get to run against the public school kids and it's a big deal for everyone. Before the race I was looking at the list of past winners. Now I know I am on that list. That night I was afraid that someone was going to tell me that it hadn't happened."
Hun cross country coach Will Porter isn't surprised that Seybert's name is now on the list of county champions.
"It's not like this is a Cinderella story," said Porter. "As a junior, he decided to do this. He knows what's going to happen before it happens. He carries himself with an air of determination and intensity. He just decided this is how it's going to be and he just ran and ran and ran."
Porter believes that Seybert's leg injury last fall helped sharpen his focus. "I think that [the injury] contributed to this season," explained Porter. "He had a sense of urgency about training. He thinks that one reason he had those setbacks is that he had done steady stuff but not enough work at race pace. He had to work 365 days to get to the point where he is now, There are no gaps, no days off."
What makes Seybert's achievements even more impressive is that he is so much faster than his teammates that he has nobody to pace him in practice or in races.
Seybert, though, will tell you that his teammates provide support in other ways. "We may not be a strong program but we have real team unity," added Seybert, who typically finishes three-to-four minutes ahead of his teammates.
"We're a team and we care about each other. I think that's more important than having a bunch of great runners to pace me. I feel like I'm getting real emotional support."
And Seybert, in turn, has provided the Hun program with an example that should have longer term implications.
"He's had a huge impact," said Porter. "We didn't see it this year but it will pay dividends down the line. He's influenced the freshmen and sophomores. They can see what it takes to be successful. Morgan has no problem saying to them 'I wasn't always this good and I worked for it and here's what you have to do.' "
As Seybert looks to make an impact on the college level next fall, he doesn't believe he's scratched the surface of his running potential.
"I've made progress every year," said Seybert. "I love running, I want to do the best I can. I still don't know where it's going to take me."
No matter where Seybert ends up in the running world, his special fall won't soon be forgotten by the Hun cross country program.