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Olympic bound? The story of ASU swimmer Jennifer Morgan

Morgan transferred to ASU from Florida Gulf Coast University for more competition.

Senior Jennifer Morgan competes in the 100 yard backstroke against UCLA on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, at Mona Plummer Aquatic Center in Tempe. The Bruins defeated the Sun Devils 180-116.
Senior Jennifer Morgan competes in the 100 yard backstroke against UCLA on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, at Mona Plummer Aquatic Center in Tempe. The Bruins defeated the Sun Devils 180-116.

From Canada to Florida to Arizona, senior swimmer Jennifer Morgan journeyed to ASU.

Morgan has been on the team since she transferred from Florida Gulf Coast University before her sophomore year after crushing the competition in the Sunshine State, owning the 200 backstroke record in the CCSA Conference. However, the success was one of the biggest reasons why she left: She wanted more competition.

“I wanted a more challenging program,” Morgan said. “I wanted an academic opportunity, so Florida Gulf Coast was a smaller school, and I just felt like coming to ASU with all they had to offer."

She certainly found what she was looking for — in each season, Morgan has done better and better. In her first season at ASU, she finished 17th in the 200-yard backstroke at the Pac-12 Championship. In 2015, she was on the second team for the Pac-12. This year, she’s expected to compete in the Olympic trials. 

With the success, growth and opportunities presented at ASU, Morgan knows she made the right decision transferring from FGCU.

“Looking back on it, I just feel like it was a really good choice,” she said. “It was a hard decision to make at the time, to pack up and move again … but looking back on it, I’m really happy that I made that move.”

Her decision is backed by the number of talented coaches ASU has hired. Head coach Bob Bowman is also the head coach of the 2016 United States Olympic swimming team, senior assistant swim and dive coach Misty Hyman won a gold medal in 2000, and Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, signed on as an assistant coach for next season.

Morgan has built a bond with these coaches.

“We face a lot of diversity and challenges with change and team culture that (Bowman's) wanting to implement here,” Morgan said. “I think it’s been such a positive change. When I found out he’s the coach, I was thrilled, and it’s been nothing but exceeding my expectations. ... I think as a senior I’ve just been encouraging the girls to embrace the challenge.”

Morgan said Hyman is the best coach she's had, and Hyman said she sees a lot of herself in the senior.

“She has a very positive disposition and is quick to smile,” Hyman said. “Of course, it doesn't hurt that she swims one of the events I swam collegiately. But more than that, I really admire her attention to detail. She has embraced the math of swimming. This takes some of the emotion out of it. If we practice all the parts correctly they add up to the goal.”

With all the changes that have happened in the coaching department, it would be very easy for the team to lose stability. For the younger athletes, it is difficult to adjust. Morgan has become a stable figure in the locker room for this team and has really been a huge help for Bowman, who said it’s invaluable to have someone like Morgan on the team.

“The freshman don’t know what to expect. A lot of people don’t know what’s happening 'cause everything is new,” Bowman said. “She’s been a very stabilizing influence on the team in general, particularly the younger swimmers.”

The end of the season is approaching quickly, and Morgan is looking toward the impending Olympic trials. It won't be the first time she's competed. In Canada, she participated in the Olympian Swim Club, and in 2012, she made the Olympic trials final in 200 backstroke.

She said she's trying to focus on the end of the season while preparing to fight for her first Olympic appearance.

“Going forward, I have a lot of competitions these next couple of months, and I’m taking it one thing at a time," she said. "So first is the Pac-12s, scoring as much as I possibly can. Then hopefully qualify for NCAAs, doing the same thing there for Arizona State, and then after the season, I’ll go to the Olympic Trials, and then that’s when I compete for myself.”

Morgan has a lot of high expectations for herself, and what she wants to do for her future. Hyman doesn't doubt her.

“I simply expect her to execute what she has been training all season to do,” Hyman said. “If she does that she will swim her lifetime best times. I believe she has a great chance to make it to the NCAA Championships and to swim well at her country's Olympic trials.”


Reach the reporter at osoussi@asu.edu or follow @omarksoussi on Twitter.

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