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North Medford alum Fossen in NCAAs at Hayward

Former North Medford athlete Morgan Fossen competes for Eastern Washington. Photo form Eastern Washington University

Returning to Hayward Field was the goal along for Morgan Fossen. Mission accomplished.

The senior pole vaulter from Eastern Washington University will have a homecoming reunion of sorts in Eugene Thursday when she competes at the NCAA Championships at renowned Hayward Field.

Fossen, a former North Medford standout, capped a season of improvement by clearing 13 feet, 8 1/4 inches in the pole vault at the West Regional in College Station, Texas, two weeks ago, which was good enough to advance her to the finals in Eugene. A 2016 graduate of North Medford, she will be among the field of 24 competing at 4 p.m. Pacific time.

She has competed twice previously at Hayward Field — twice for Eugene-based Lane Community College, and once during high school at the Oregon Relays. Fossen, who has a 3.85 grade-point average and received her degree in communication sciences and disorders this spring, said the goal all along since transferring to EWU was to get back to the iconic track and field city and venue.

“One of my goals after transferring from Lane was to make it back to Hayward Field one day,” she said. “All the support from my coaches, teammates and family helped me make that a reality. I couldn’t be more excited to go back home and represent EWU at nationals.”

At the NCAA West Regional, Fossen successfully cleared the bar on three previous attempts before clearing 13-8 1/4 on her second try and advanced to Eugene based on tiebreakers. Five other nonqualifiers also had marks of 13-8 1/4, but three of them cleared it on their third try and two others had more misses in the competition.

Fossen missed all three of her attempts at 14-0, which would have equaled the school record. Breaking that mark is the goal, she said, at Hayward Field, where she will be joined by a collection of family and friends, including her sister, Megan Fossen, who is on the Eastern women’s basketball team.

“My parents, sister, grandma, some aunties, and even some teammates are flying in to watch me compete,” she said. “Even my old junior college coach will be there, plus some other athletes I competed with at Lane. It’s going to be a reunion of so many important people in my life, and I can’t wait to make them proud in one last meet.”

Fossen had an outdoor best at EWU of 11-10 3/4 entering the season. But she cleared 13-8 1/2 to rank second in school history earlier this year, then had an effort of 12-9 in finishing as the Big Sky Conference runner-up behind teammate Katrina Terry.

“Because I transferred to a school so far away, I hardly have family able to make it to any of my meets,” said Fossen, who will complete her senior season indoors in 2021-22 while pursuing a master’s degree in communication sciences and disorders. “So having them there means the world to me.”

She was the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) champion in the pole vault as a freshman and was the runner-up as a sophomore.

Fossen had a personal best of 12-6 as a sophomore, then transferred to Eastern, where she had a best of 11-10 3/ at the 2019 Big Sky Conference Outdoor Championships. She advanced to the 2020 Big Sky Indoor Championships but no-heighted, and then the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out her 2020 outdoor and 2021 indoor seasons.

“I am so proud of Morgan,” said Eastern women’s head coach Marcia Mecklenburg. “This was a breakthrough year for her both physically and mentally. We don’t have very many athletes that make it on to the NCAA Outdoor Championship finals. Morgan is now part of that elite group. Being from Oregon, she is getting ready to compete on her home turf so I am expecting some good things to happen for her.”

The last female competitors at the NCAA Championships for EWU came in 2014, when both Emma Murillo (javelin) and Catie Arrigoni (steeplechase) qualified.

Fossen’s competition will be fierce, with 17 of the 24 competitors clearing at least 14 feet this season. Entering the regional round, Fossen’s mark of 13-8 1/2 was 35th-best in the nation.

“I am super excited that Morgan is continuing on,” said EWU pole vault coach Eric Allison after the West Regional. “She’s done a great job of learning how to transition to bigger poles during competition and competing a little better. She’s always been awesome in practice and now Morgan has carried that over to meets. She’s really good.”

Eastern continued its dominance in the women’s pole vault at the Big Sky Championships this season with a 1-2-7-8 finish. EWU’s group of women’s pole vaulters has ranked as high as seventh in NCAA Division I this season (currently 10th), and had a 1-2-3 sweep outdoors at the league meet in 2019.

Eastern has now won six outdoor pole vault titles — all in the last nine meets since 2012 — with Terry’s winning vault this year the most recent.

“Having the other girls do well this season has really helped Morgan and our team,” added Allison. “That has made all the practices pretty competitive.”