Plymouth parents explain how basketball & 4-H helped their daughter become an Olympic track star

As you drive passed the corn fields - in between the farms - stands one home you can't miss.

It's not because of the American flag that waves in the wind. Maybe it's the Olympic rings on the garage or the Team USA banner in the front window.

This ranch is the childhood home of the first Olympian to ever come out of Plymouth, Indiana.

On Monday, 2003 Plymouth grad Morgan Uceny begins her quest to give the United States its first ever medal in the 1,500 meter run. The semifinals are Wednesday with the finals on Friday. Uceny is certainly among the favorites.

Her parents, Brenda and Marty, departed Wednesday along with five other family members to meet up with Morgan in London. Before the Uceny's left, they gave NewsCenter 16 an exclusive tour of where Morgan grew up and how she grew into an Olympian.

As we walk into the home, mom is ready to show off her welles.

"Aren't they awesome," Brenda says with an excited smile.

You don't have to go far to find newspaper clippings, flags, pins, t-shirts and even giant banners of Morgan's face spread across the family living room. Even the bathroom boasts Morgan's achievements.

It might be something Morgan herself wouldn't agree with. As she amassed award after award growing up, she forbid her parents from putting them on display. Instead they hang inside a walk in closet in her room. Morgan's parents haven't changed her room despite the fact that Morgan is now 27 and lives full-time in San Diego where she trains. To them and to her, this house in Plymouth is still home.

The door reads, "most likely to be a professional athlete."

One problem.

"It's the wrong sport," her mom and dad point out with a laugh.

The 'award' was given while Morgan was in 8th grade and is on a red, white and blue basketball hoop. This is after all Plymouth---Morgan's dream was to be a basketball star.

"Typical midwestern kid," Brenda says.

"Hoosier Hysteria," Marty chuckles. "That's not track thats b-ball."

Outside, Marty shows us where he built the basketball court for Morgan in 8th grade when she became serious about playing the sport.

"She liked to spend a lot of time out here shooting all weekend and in the evenings," Marty pointed out then turning to his garden. "This area over here is where we used to have her her goat pen."

That's right. Morgan's 2nd biggest passion outside of hoops was 4-H.

"Morgan loved her animals and we had kittens and dogs and she would always spend a lot of time out in the barn," Marty points out. "Sometimes when the goats were getting ready to have their babies, she would sleep in the barn all night so she could watch them."

Morgan participated in 4-H from the time she was in 3rd grade until she was 20. Her mom feels it played an incredible role in Morgan's growth as a person and athlete.

"Starting at ground zero basically and knowing that you have to go through that process to completion and i can't turn that project in until it's done and she would be up til midnight at night filling out record sheets that had to be turned in or knowing that a goat was going to be born--she would go out and spend her time in the barn," Brenda explains.

"It taught her a lot I think."

Morgan was a grounded kid who had a good upbringing. And track well that only came into the picture because of basketball. For Morgan, it was an outlet to stay in shape.

"I think she managed to stay interested because it was pretty easy for her to win," Marty says with a laugh.

And so it began. From Plymouth to a multi-time All-American at Cornell, Morgan just kept on winning. So much that she's now among the world's very best in the 1,500 meter run. Quite a journey from when her parents had to keep her financially afloat so she could pursue her running career after graduating from Cornell.

"I'm going to get pretty emotional," Brenda says about having to talk about helping her daughter out.

Marty says they did typical things that parents do help their kids out--like pay for car insurance. The key was that they kept her at ease and didn't pressure her to move on. They made sure she had the chance to make it big.

Back in September Morgan told me that without that support from her parents, she never would have made it. Brenda says Morgan told them in the last few weeks that she plans to pay her parents back after the Olympics.

"She shouldn't do that," Brenda says.

Brenda and Marty don't plan on getting emotional once they meet up with their daughter in London. They know they have to be her rock.

"We're just going to keep it low key and not add anymore fuel to the fire and keep the anxiety and the pressure off her because it's got to be a lot to face - that challenge the best in the world," Marty says.

Brenda says she plans to have a beer with her daughter.

"It's about being yourself," Brenda says she will remind her daughter. "You're representing the United States of America but you're also representing Plymouth, Indiana and our family and she knows that. She knows where she came from and my rule is have fun, have fun with it."

Not bad for a kid who dreamed to play hoops and just have fun with her animals.


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