By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STRASBURG -- Morgan Carter has always been there.
The Strasburg senior has played a part in the cross country program's success each of the last three years. She's helped the Rams reach the podium each of the last three years. Carter has always been there just behind runners such as Kaitlin Ayers, Kirsten Campbell and Sarah Elbon.
This year things are a little different, Carter is the one leading the way and a young Rams squad hasn't missed a beat.
"Over these past years she's been out of the spotlight, because of the tremendous talent we've had," Strasburg coach Jeff Rudy said. "Through [the years] we've seen this consistent runner running for us, helping us hit the podium the past three years, and hopefully she now takes the leadership role and will direct us and guide us hopefully to our fifth year on the state podium."
As she's done all season, Carter led the Rams to a third-place finish at the 2A East Region meet last week. She was coming off a foot injury that kept her out of the Conference 35 meet the week before. Carter finished 16th (21:17) at the regional meet to earn The Northern Virginia Daily's Female Athlete of the Week for the week of Nov. 3-9.
Carter said it was tough sitting out the conference meet, but she knew her teammates would be fine and do well without her. Carter said she was a little nervous going into the regional meet held on Nov. 6 at Panorama Farms.
"I was a bit worried because that was my first race coming back from [my injury]," Carter said. "But after I started going through the first mile, and the second mile, it felt pretty good. The third mile I just gave it everything."
Carter was the Rams' top returner off a squad that finished third in the Group A state meet last year. Strasburg lost three seniors to graduation from the top five from last season, and Carter said she did feel a little pressure going into this year.
"It's a lot of pressure, but at the same time it gives me a chance to thrive under that, and just use all that pressure and convert it into energy. And that's what I've been doing," Carter said.
She said being around some of the strong runners from the last few years really helped prepare her to take the leadership reins this season.
"Kaitlin [Ayers] was a great influence," Carter said. "Seeing her leadership helped a lot. And having Kirsten [Campbell] and Rachel [Taylor] and Sarah [Elbon] throughout the rest of those years, it really helped me transition from [being part of the] pack to being that leader."
Last year Carter finished 26th in a time of 21:09 at the Group A state meet at Great Meadows. She said this year she would just like to improve on her time and her place, but the most important thing is how the team does.
The Rams have made the podium, which is the top three spots, each of her years on the team. It's a tradition she wants to see continue when Strasburg runs in the Class 2A state meet on Saturday.
"I'm expecting to hit the podium," Carter said. "I just want to give everything I have, and just to see us as a team hit the podium -- that's a goal."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd