BIGFORK — It’s been two years since her injury, but Bigfork’s Bryn Morley finally feels like she’s back.
As a sophomore, Morley experienced severe shin splints during the cross-country season. By the time track season came around, Morley started feeling sharp pains, forcing her to get an MRI. The results were the bane of any runner: Morley had a stress fracture in her tibia.
Morley was told to take six weeks off and she’d be back to running. However, she didn’t physically feel the same.
“It actually took me my whole junior year to come back physically and to get back into shape, up to top speed,” Morley said of the injury. “Mentally, it’s been a struggle. It’s really hard being injured, but right now, I think I’m way above where I was freshman year physically. It hasn’t showed in races yet, but I think it’ll show soon.”
“With her injury, she’s been a little frustrated at times trying to get back to where she was, but she works hard and is so dedicated,” longtime Bigfork coach Sue Loeffler said. “She feels as if she’s still behind due to her injury. She lost about two years as it set her back last season and she didn’t feel like she was at her best.”
The mental hurdles Morley had to face were tougher than any race she’d competed in. Morley had been running since she was in fourth grade without getting hurt, so taking time away from running was a new experience.
“When I was little, I’d take the summers off, but I still was always in shape. It was really hard starting from nothing and having to climb back, because I’d never really had to do that,” Morley said.
And climbing back to the top is exactly what Morley has done in her senior year. Morley owns Montana’s top time in the 1,600-meter run this season and is the only girl to run it in less than five minutes. She is also the Class B leader in the 800-meter run.
While Morley was predominantly absent from the track her sophomore year, she has racked up seven state titles between individual events and team relays. However, she doesn’t feel the outside pressure to rack up the individual accolades.
“My goals are to get some pretty fast times,” Morley said. “I would say I would feel more pressure from myself to get those times than the places, because with those times come the places.”
In the back of her mind during races and workouts is her dream of being a professional runner and possibly qualifying for the Olympics. None of that would be possible without coach Loeffler and Morley’s family — dad Steve, sister Makena and brother Logan all ran under Loeffler at Bigfork.
Within the family, Makena started the competitive running, setting the example for both Logan and Bryn. Makena continued her running career at the University of Montana, while Logan moved on to Colorado State University-Pueblo.
Loeffler found pointed differences between the Morley sisters. While she viewed Makena as more of a long-distance cross-country type runner, she believes that Bryn is more effective in the 800 and 1,600.
“I think it’s cool that (Loeffler) has the history with my dad,” Morley said of the relationship between Loeffler and the Morley family. “It’s just real comfortable having her as a coach and being able to tell her about everything and have her through everything that I’ve been through. Some athletes don’t get as close to their coach, but I think having our families know each other really helped because we’re pretty close.”
In the offseason Bryn relies on her father training, whether through a regimented workout or in the outdoors. Steve owns a canoe shop, so activities like hiking, canoeing, and kayaking contribute to keeping Bryn in shape, but she also runs year-round, usually outside, no matter the weather, putting together workouts to improve her speed.
The workouts are working. After years of chasing Makena early in her track career, it’s now the rest of the state chasing Bryn as she piles on the accolades.