Morgan Pope has been chasing her dreams since childhood

State Hornet Staff

Most 2-year-olds grow up running around the house, but Sacramento State senior sprinter Morgan Pope grew up running around the track.

Since she could walk, Pope’s life has been consumed by track and has spent time perfecting her craft.

“We figured she had a special talent when she was really young,” said Morgan’s father Lee Pope. “She started running all-comers meets at two or three years old.”

Pope’s parents coached track at George Whittell High School in Zephyr Cove, Nev., which is not far from Lake Tahoe where the Popes used to live. And because of the convenience, Morgan would go to practice with them.

“I remember my mom bringing me to practice and putting me in a playpen on the field,” Morgan Pope said. “Some of the athletes on their breaks would come play with me. I literally grew up on the track.”

By middle school, Pope had been around track long enough to build up her passion, so her parents would drive her as far as Southern California to compete in meets.

“We would drive to all-comers meets in the Inland Empire”, Pope said.

In high school, Pope was a three-sport athlete, competing also in basketball and volleyball, but it was track where she shined the most. She made the varsity team her freshman year and ran varsity track all four years, eventually earning a scholarship to Northern Arizona University.

Unfortunately, things did not go according to plan when she arrived on campus.

“She didn’t have a good experience at NAU doing the 100 and 200 meter events,” said head coach Kathleen Raske. “She wanted to be apart of a team.”

While at Northern Arizona, Pope’s track career was disorganized. She did not have a sprints coach, which translated negatively on the field.

“It was mentally tough, but I still tried to do what I could for the team,” Pope said. “Indoor season didn’t go so hot.”

Her 2011 outdoor season would change her life.

Pope competed at the outdoor Big Sky Conference meet, which was hosted by Sacramento State. She observed the team atmosphere she desired and made her decision to transfer.

“What made me want to come to Sac State was seeing coach Raske pull the 4 by 4 teams together,” Pope said. “She lead a prayer with the team before the race. That sold it for me.”

The decision gave Pope the team atmosphere she wanted, but it came at a price.

Due to NCAA rules, Pope had to redshirt her first season at Sac State because she transferred schools in the same conference, so she lost her scholarship.

“She made a leap of faith transferring to Sac State,” Raske said.

That leap ended up paying huge dividends.

The Hornets won Big Sky Conference Championships in both the indoor and outdoor events for the 2013 season.

“It was the first time I was apart of a winning program,” Pope said. “It was the greatest feeling in the world to have contributed to our championships.”

With the adversity of having to transfer schools in the middle of her college career, Pope could have easily given up and quit track. Her competitive spirit would not allow her to.

“Her determination and competitive drive is her strength,” Lee Pope said. “She absolutely hates to lose.”

Growing up with her younger brother Taylor Pope, who is a wide receiver for Boise State, Morgan Pope developed a competitive streak that she still has today.

“She always loved to compete with her little brother growing up,” her father said. “She used to beat him up a little bit. They would compete in everything.”

Now that she is older, her competitiveness translates to the track field. Pope was named a team captain once she arrived at Sac State.

“Her competitive nature and passion helps push others,” Raske said. “We’re a highly competitive program and we look for that in our athletes. Morgan embodies that.”

Off the field, Pope keeps the competitive juices flowing.

“Morgan is always trying to get better,” Lee Pope said. “Whether it’s working out, reading training books or practicing on the track she loves to compete.”

Josh Leeper can be reached on Twitter @SH_Sports