Syd Morris LIU

Syd Morris’ Journey to LIU Was Anything but Straight-Forward

A small rainbow flag was lifted into the air, Syd Morris saluted and stared down the vault at the end of the runway. They ran, hurdled, did round off onto the board, went straight back onto the table, and finished with a layout with a full twist before landing on their feet. Cheering was coming from every direction, and Morris felt the adrenaline running through their veins. That was a moment they had been dreaming of for years, but the path to get there was not at all what they would have expected.

Morris always had the goal growing up of competing at the U.S. championships. They achieved that goal in 2017 when they qualified to the HOPES championship before competing at the U.S. championships as a junior in both 2018 and 2019. Looking back on that experience is something Morris remembers fondly, knowing that their hard work brought them to that moment. Going into 2020, Morris was looking forward to their first year on the elite stage as a senior. Unfortunately, a back injury derailed that possibility.

The injury took Morris out of the gym for six months. During that time, they were still going into the gym to condition, but they struggled to cope with the knowledge that they were not capable of doing what they wanted to be doing at the time.

“I knew that if I didn’t get the rest I needed to, then I wouldn’t be able to come back at all, and that was just something that I couldn’t do,” they said.

The focus had to shift to getting as healthy as possible, so Morris could be ready for college.

The gym Morris trained at for elite was focused on their elite career, and once going back to elite was out of the question, Morris the switch to spend their last year in high school in a healthy environment. In that last year, Morris wanted to get ready to compete in college gymnastics, but that posed another challenge because communication with teams fell off after their injury. Morris had a plan to defer a year to allow the recruiting process to continue, but then LIU head coach Randy Lane reached out.

Lane reaching out was a light for Morris in the recruiting process. They recalled their thought process saying, “It was nice that someone still knew my potential and wanted to reach out and help me to show that potential. I took that opportunity, and I went with it.” 

Teammate Katy Koopman recalled not knowing who Morris was when they committed. After searching on social media, she recognized how much having Morris on the team could benefit gymnastically. What she didn’t know until months later was that Morris would end up being her best friend. Koopman explained the presence Morris brings to the team as “fun to be around, always happy, bubbly, jumping around. They’re like a ball of energy. I guess you could say I love that.”

Going into Morris’s first season, the freshman wanted to set records for themself that they will be able to break again and again, as well as have fun, because as Morris noted, breaking records doesn’t mean much if it’s not fun while doing it. Having the season start with a pride meet was a great way to start their career as a gender neutral and pansexual person themself. Being a part of the community only made the first meet that much more special.

So far, the initial records have been set and are awaiting being broken. None of that would have been possible without what they learned while injured.

“I was still strong enough to be able to come back and be just as good, if not better than before.”

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Live blog by Alyssa Van Auker

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