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Slippery Rock High School graduate goes from cross country in Florida to Alaska
Siebka makes run to the last frontier

SRHS grad goes from cross country in Florida to Alaska

By Mike Kilroy

Eagle Staff Writer

FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Morgan Siebka's athletic career has taken her many

Both literally and figuratively.

It has taken the Slippery Rock High School graduate all over the country and
also on a journey inside herself to find the strength and courage to
overcome to complete ACL tears.

It has taken her from the basketball courts of Slippery Rock High, where she
was the co-Butler Eagle Girls Basketball Player of the Year after her
sophomore season, to the hardwood at Florida Southern College to the
operating room and into an unknown athletic future.

That future, though, is no longer unknown.

That trip ultimately took her to the cross country course at Florida
Southern as Siebka reinvented her playing career.

And now, it has taken her from the flat terrain of southern Florida to the
undulating and sometimes intimidating hills of Alaska.

Siebka wouldn't change a thing.

"Some of the most wonderful decisions I've made have come by accident,"
Siebka said.

It was a pair of accidents that forced Siebka away from the basketball court
after tearing her ACL for the second time during her sophomore season in
college with the Moccasins.

But she discovered cross country and excelled at Florida Southern on the
course as a senior.

Now in graduate school at Alaska Fairbanks studying to be a marine
biologist, Siebka is running again.

And well.

"My senior year in college, I kind of stumbled across cross country," Siebka
said. "My college coach told me I had two years of eligibility left (at
Alaska Fairbanks) and I might as well look into it."

Siebka jumped at the chance to run again and led all Alaska Fairbanks
women's finishers at the Western Washington championships earlier this
month. She also helped the Nanooks to their highest finish in five years at
the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championships.

It was a tough transition for Siebka, who had to adjust to radically
different terrain and climate between Florida Southern and Alaska Fairbanks.

"They couldn't be more different," Siebka said. "Florida his hot and flat.
Alaska is hilly and windy and rainy and cold. The biggest challenge is that
everything here is up-hill. It sounds like a joke, but every course is
up-hill, both ways."

Siebka also had to adjust her expectations because of that, especially when
it came to her times.

"I was just getting caught up on times," Siebka said. "I had to focus on
where I placed."

Siebka also had to overcome her own intimidation when seeing her Alaska
Fairbanks teammate.

"I told my mom, 'They're thighs are bigger than both of mine put together,'"
Siebka said, laughing.

Siebka has also put on lower body muscle. It's hard not to, she said,
because of the terrain.

Siebka wasn't even sure when she left Florida Southern where she would end

Then Alaska caught her eye.

"I'd be looking at my books and all the habitats I was interested in
studying were in Alaska," Siebka said. "Then I had the opportunity to run
cross country and everything fell into place."

So did Siebka's love for trail running.

During the summer before she began school at Alaska Fairbanks, Siebka met a
group of friends who were enthusiastic trail runners.

Those runs are much longer - some of them 17 miles or more - and Siebka dove
right in.

"I love the social aspect of running," Siebka said. "I feel closer with my
running community than the people I was playing basketball with for my
entire life."

Siebka calls herself a "pick-up" runner now. She has shied away from playing
much "pick-up" basketball, however.

The knee is always a concern and while it balks at her from time - mostly
when descending steep hills on her runs - she is feeling the best physically
as she ever has.

She doesn't want to risk it.

"I'm retired," Siebka said of her basketball playing days. "I'm not going to
play and have someone slam into my knees. I'll play, maybe, but I'll stand
in the parking lot, hitting 3s.

Siebka laughs. "I can still make it rain from the perimeter."
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