LSU 800-meter runner Morgan Schuetz quickly progresses beyond early goals _lowres

Photo courtesy Bryan Wayne/LSU Athletic Communications -- LSU 800-meter runner Morgan Schuetz

During the long hours she spent rehabbing an injury that ruined her freshman season with the LSU track team in 2013, Morgan Schuetz could only think of two things.

One, she wasn’t ready to stop competing after a highly decorated prep career at Parkview Baptist in which she won eight state Class 3A individual titles in events ranging from 800 to 3,200 meters.

Secondly, she wanted to clock a 2:09 in the 800 meters — exactly 10 seconds faster than she had ever run in high school — by the time she left LSU as a senior.

As it turned out, reaching her goal of a 2:09 came easier than just getting back on the track for the Lady Tigers in the 2014 season after spending about six months in the pool trying to recover from painful shin splints.

“It was really terrible,” Schuetz said.

But the payoff was worth it when she clocked a time of 2 minutes, 11.33 seconds in her first collegiate race and a month later ran a 2:08.86 at the Tyson Invitational under first-year distance coach Khadevis Robinson.

“That 2:11 was a pretty big jump for me, it was real exciting,” Schuetz said. “I guess I trusted coach (Robinson) and figured he knew what he talking about.”

Not long after that, talk of running a 2:09 by her senior year in 2017 was forgotten — replaced by talk of possibly running in the low two-minute range which would get her onto the school’s all-time list in the event.

That’s been the new goal since Schuetz posted personal records of 2:03.12 outdoors a year ago, which ranks eighth all-time, and 2:04.05 indoors just last weekend at Notre Dame — putting her sixth on the school’s list.

The PR at Notre Dame was unexpected considering it came after she ran the mile leg on the distance medley relay team. She finished what Hollie Parker, Travia Jones and Hannah Deworth started in setting a school record of 11:05.34.

Schuetz said the relay made her run even harder and helped produce the fastest 800 time in the Southeastern Conference this season going into the league’s indoor meet on Friday and Saturday at Arkansas.

“Having anyone do well on our team gets me excited,” Schuetz said. “But the relay is a special thing, so I try to run harder because I’m running for my teammates.”

She’s not doing badly in her specialty, either.

After getting her times down last season, Schuetz finished fourth in the 800 final at the SEC indoor meet and then was third at the league’s outdoor meet. She was ninth at the NCAA championships, missing the final by one spot.

The SEC outdoor meet, she said, was the one that convinced her she was on the right path.

She finished ninth in the preliminary heats and earned the last spot for the final.

“I didn’t think I was going to make the final and I did,” Schuetz said. “Then, I didn’t want to finish last in the final, and I got third ... it was my ‘Aha’ moment. I was crying on the track and coach Khadevis was yelling, ‘Do you believe me now?’ ”

She does, and, as a result, goes into the SEC indoor meet with confidence that she can win the title and possibly help the distance medley relay win as well. The relay team’s top time is second in the league just behind Arkansas’ 11:05.19.

“Last year, scoring at the SEC meet and making it to nationals, gave me so much confidence,” Schuetz said. “If I listen to coach Khadevis, there’s no limit to what I can do.

“All I have to do is listen to him and keep working harder and harder each season. There’s a big difference in me now: I expect to win, and that’s made me more confident in myself.”

Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter, @MicklesAdvocate.