SE: Competitiveness, Self-Drive Fuel Morgan Wedekind to Running Success

Morgan Wedekind admits it can get “obnoxious and annoying,” but her competitiveness really has no off switch. It’s a major part of who she is, and always has been, and it’s a big reason why she’s become a standout cross country runner for K-State. 

“In general, I’m always trying to win things,” she said, with a laugh that portrays anything but an ultra-competitor. Don’t let it fool you — she still claims her twin sister and K-State women’s soccer player, Madison, cheated to be the first one born. 

“She pushed me right out of the way,” Morgan said, again laughing. “It started at birth. It’s just part of who I am: Competitive.”

The senior enters her final two guaranteed cross country competitions, with the Big 12 Championship meet set for next week in Lubbock, Texas, and the Midwest Regional Championship scheduled for November 11, in Iowa City, Iowa. 

Wedekind does not have any specific goals or placements in mind to end her career — admittedly, she said, a “weird thought” in itself. She only intends to continue what she’s always done: running hard. 

So far, it’s worked out pretty well. 

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Wedekind thinks her first cross country race ever was in Hutchinson, but the Valley Center graduate isn’t 100 percent sure. What she’s certain of is how her career started: with a bang. 

When the starting gun went off, Wedekind took off in a sprint. An opposing coach standing next to her mother, unaware of the connection, said: “See that girl there, she’s not going to hold that pace.” Sure enough, it was Wedekind who crossed the finish line first. 

She wasn’t necessarily surprised by her performance, either. 

Entering high school, Wedekind picked cross country over volleyball because she had confidence her running ability would take her further. She came to this realization after watching the KSHSAA State Track and Field Meet in Wichita, where her eighth-grade mile time of 5:28 would have been close to medaling. 

She went on to win a Kansas 4A state cross country title as a freshman and a 5A title as a sophomore before ending her high school career with two runner-up finishes behind Kaelyn Balch, now running at Missouri. Wedekind also won three state titles in track and field, breaking four school records in the process. 

“I thought maybe I should go with running because it might pay off a little better for me. I’ve always really wanted to participate in Division I athletics, especially at K-State where I wanted to go since I was like seven,” said Wedekind, whose initial dream was to play basketball at K-State before her running career took off. “That’s always stuck with me and I would do whatever it takes to get there. I got here and thought, ‘That’s not good enough.’”

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Wedekind did not win her first cross country race at K-State, but she was happy with her time. At least, she was at first. 

In the Wichita State-hosted JK Gold Classic, Wedekind finished fourth with a personal best time. However, what she remembers most is Mike Smith, K-State’s cross country coach at the time, putting the race in perspective in a way she thrives on. 

“He was screaming at me, yelling at me and saying, ‘Morgan, don’t stop pushing!’ I’d never been yelled at like that in my life, and I honestly didn’t mind it because I respond really well to yelling,” she said. “I was kind of happy with my time, and after the race, Coach Smith comes up to me and he says, ‘Morgan, don’t you ever stop pushing!’ He wasn’t even happy with my race. It helped because it put things into perspective for me that what I was doing, even though it was better than what I had done, it’s still wasn’t good enough. I really liked that.”

Smith’s straightforward approach worked well with Wedekind from the beginning. It sold her even more on K-State while being recruited.  

“He would be telling me what his girls were doing in their workouts and my mind was blown before I was even on the team. He was just being honest with me with where I was and where I needed to be,” she said, remembering one exchange in particular. “He said, ‘You’re not good enough right now. You’re good enough to be on the team, but you’re not good enough to compete in the Big 12.’ 

“I really liked that because I don’t like being fed compliments when I know and what I feel is I want to be doing better. It’s nice to hear somebody else that wants me to get better too.”

From that day, Wedekind put forward a determined effort to prepare herself for Division I running. The summer before college, she set her running watch for a 7-minute mile pace while training. When she fell behind this pace, the watch beeped at her and she ran faster. 

“I think that helped my fitness level a lot, making sure that I was doing what those girls were doing, because my goal was I wanted to come in and I wanted to be in the top five and help the team score,” she said. “I didn’t just want to come here and be a part of the team. I wanted to contribute.”

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As a freshman, Wedekind participated in all six races for K-State, finishing 35th at the Big 12 Championship and 105th at the Midwest Regional Championship. 

Her progress since then has been steady and significant. 

Wedekind won her first collegiate race to open her sophomore season. She closed it with a 20th-place finish at the Big 12 meet that was followed by earning All-Midwest Region honors with a 25th-place performance. 

Last season continued the trend, as Wedekind started her season with three straight top-five finishes, including a runner-up outing at the Bob Timmons Classic. She capped the season with a 10th-place time at the Big 12 Championship and a 23rd-place run at the Midwest Regional, earning her second consecutive All-Region honor. 

This fall, Wedekind has earned Big 12 Runner of the Week honors twice, becoming the first Wildcat runner to accomplish the feat since Laura Galvan in 2013. Her first honor came after winning the Augustana Twilight meet to start the season. She received the second following her third top-five finish of the season in as many races.

“She’s gotten better and better every year,” K-State head coach Ryun Godfrey said. “One of the things about Morgan is she can have a good race and she can pat herself on the back and feel good about it, but she’s never quite satisfied.”

Wedekind’s inner drive has undoubtedly fueled her running career, but it hasn’t been the only factor steering her toward success. 

She credits current and former teammates, such as Martina Tresch, Erika Schiller, Mary Frances Donnelly and Galvan for helping her along. Tresch was especially influential, Wedekind said, because “she was just extremely hard working every single day. She just had a fire in her and she was so out to get people, so out to run fast.”

Wedekind said she mirrored the rest of them in any way she could to improve. 

“Watching them and seeing what they’re doing to be as fast as they are, and then doing what they’re doing to get that fast,” she said. “It’s just awesome to see that example in front of your eyes instead of just seeing the times that they’re running.”

Also, Wedekind has simply matured as a runner. She knows how to train properly, what mindset works for her on the course and how important the “little things,” like sleeping and eating right, are in preparing her body to perform at the highest level. 

“All the little things matter if you want to be good,” she said. “It was something that I knew coming into college, but it was a discipline that I had to build over time.”

Then there is her competitiveness, which has been there all along. She can’t put her finger on exactly what spurred this innate desire to win; she only knows what has kept it going. 

“I just really like trying hard and I like the feeling that you tried your best. I never really thought it was fun to settle for anything. That was never my ideal attitude. If I was going to spend my time doing something, I was going to do it well and not half-heartedly,” she said while fittingly wearing a Nike T-shirt with the words “Is That All You Got?” on the front. “It’s kind of always been a part of my attitude, just to take advantage of every opportunity. A lot of it now has to do, I would say, with my faith. Part of it is I believe that if there’s an opportunity for something, I need to take hold of it and work as if I’m serving the Lord, not just myself. If you really invest a lot of yourself in something, good things will happen.”