“Be Intentional” are the two words that make up the Lady Hubs track and field team’s motto this season. For Rochelle senior Morgan Knight, who has battled past two serious injuries to become a three-time state qualifier with the Lady Hubs, those words have a little more meaning.
Knight suffered a stress fracture in her back during eighth grade, which caused her to miss her entire freshman track season once she arrived at Rochelle Township High School. She also endured a broken foot that not only sidelined her for the second half of her senior volleyball season and her whole senior basketball season, but lingered into the indoor track and field season.
But Knight refused to let any pain or fear from her previous injuries, especially her foot injury, hold her back from finishing her high school career strong. She helped the Lady Hubs set new school records during both the indoor and outdoor seasons this year, and she’ll be looking to add more memorable accolades to her resume at the IHSA State Championships in Charleston next weekend.
“The girls that I run with and our coaches have really helped me,” Knight said. “I told myself that I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of what we could do at state because I didn’t want to let them down... Coach [Alison Mercer-Curtis] talked with me and she helped me push the injury to the back of my mind and not think about it until it just didn’t hurt anymore.”
Rochelle’s push to the May postseason began at the 2018 Illinois Top Times Indoor State Championships in March when Knight helped the Lady Hubs set a new school record in the 1600-meter relay (4:12.98). Rochelle’s success carried over into the outdoor season, with the Lady Hubs going back-to-back in the Landers-Loomis Invitational at Oregon High School and earning a three-peat in the Ogle County Invitational at RTHS.
“This season has been everything we’ve been working for over the past four years,” Knight said. “We started training earlier and girls who didn’t shine as much last year were really able to find their spots on the team this year. It’s really interesting to see so many girls fall in love with track the way I have over the past couple of years.”
Knight and the Lady Hubs set both a new meet record and a new school record in the 400-meter relay (49.27 seconds) during the IHSA Class 2A Sectional in Lisle on Thursday. The senior will compete in two relay events at the state championships including the 400-meter relay and the 1600-meter relay, which she placed third in alongside teammates Jacie Wyatt, Morgan Baker and Cesca Vardman in 2017 with a school record time of 3:58.92.
“It’s unbelievable to have school records,” Knight said. “I remember reading the newspaper when I was little and hearing about girls like Lexie Sondgeroth, Michelle Dobbs and Jennifer Jenkins when I first started getting into track. Knowing now that our names are up on the record board too is really exciting.”
A three-sport athlete who played volleyball and basketball at Rochelle, Knight began competing in track during fifth grade at Kings. She enjoys racing in the relay events, with the 1600-meter relay serving as her favorite event. She draws motivation from competing for her teammates, who she said are some of her biggest role models both in and out of athletics.
“I came in my sophomore year as a freshman in track because I was just a manager the previous year,” Knight said. “Following the lead of Jacie, Cesca and Morgan and how they handled themselves in high-pressure situations taught me how to have fun and compete during meets and in practice.”
Knight also credited her grandmother Donna Kelly for encouraging her to return stronger after her injuries. Knight said that she and her teammates are aiming to reach the state finals in each of their three relays next weekend, but their ultimate goal is to enjoy the experience regardless of where they finish.
“My grandma’s gone through a lot but she’s always had a positive attitude,” Knight said. “Her mindset of knowing you could turn things around really helped me and whenever I got injured I would talk to her and she would help me feel better… Coach Kissack told us at the beginning of the season to not have any regrets when we leave the track, and he told us that it doesn’t matter what medal we have around our necks as long as we put everything we had into the season.”