Morgan Tracey has always had an “eclectic” range of interests which have allowed her to live a lot of life in a short period of time.
Having graduated from Champion High School in 1999, Tracey earned a soccer scholarship to Mercyhurst, where she played for four years.
Law school after college had always been the plan ever since she was a young girl, but she had a nagging feeling inside her — she felt that there was something she needed to do first. So she joined the AmeriCorps, where she spent time working with community action groups in Oregon, filing taxes for low-income individuals in Arizona and working as a hotshot firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service.
Five years later, it was time for law school. While there, Tracey made a deal with herself — a deal that would alter the current course of her life. If she passed the bar exam, she would pursue her lifelong dream of being an Olympian.
“I’d always wanted to be an Olympian my entire life,” Tracey said. “Every four years, it was always on the TV. Back then you had VHS tapes and I remember watching the previous games — that was something (my family) would always do. Every winter my Dad would get them out and we’d watch all the sports.”
While studying for the bar exam, she started to learn more about a little-known, yet electrifying sport called skeleton through her brother, who, like her, had also played soccer at Champion.
“I thought if I pass the bar exam, I’m going to go try out skeleton,” Tracey said. “So I passed the bar, packed my car and moved to Lake Placid, N.Y. and tried out for the team, which was a little bit crazy. My parents thought I was insane.”
There were countless other summer and winter Olympic sports she could pursue, including soccer, which she already had a considerable background in. So why skeleton?
“It’s not like I was going to be a figure skater or a gymnast,” Tracey said. “I looked at what I had to work with and thought this was my last chance. I was going to do it. Luckily I had a supportive family. While they definitely still told me I was crazy at family events, they still supported me, which was part of the reason I was going to give it a go and chase this dream.”
Also, skeleton is unique in that it’s a sport you don’t have to do from a young age — it can be picked up later in life and still be excelled in, according to Tracey.
“Most of our athletes come from collegiate sports,” Tracey said. “We have a lot of sprinters, some soccer players, softball players and some football players, but predominantly track-and-field. We can take an athlete and teach them this sport over anywhere from 4-10 years.”
While skeleton is technically the slowest of the sliding sports that include bobsled and luge, it may be the most physically taxing. Athletes must endure four or five G’s of pressure going around turns head first on a narrow, yet heavy sled at speeds over 80 mph.
The track is about a mile long and an Olympic-caliber time is a little over a minute for both men and women.
Skeleton’s running start requires a tremendous amount of speed and power to get the best start you can over the first 50 meters or so of the track. But from there, the sledder must be incredibly careful because the ever-so-slightest body movements while on the track can cause significant drag and result in loss of time.
“Imagine being as jazzed up as you could get, then all of a sudden having to be as calm as possible and as relaxed as possible,” Tracey said. “Because the sled is so responsive that if you’re tense, your sled will be all over the place.”
Tracey ended up being a member of Team USA for about eight years (2010-2017), competing in several North American Cups, the European Cup, the National Championships and a couple of America’s Cups, but unfortunately never got to the Olympics.
While she may not have been able to fulfill her dream of competing in the Olympics, she’s still a vital part of Team USA, currently serving as Director of Operations and Compliance and helping the U.S. Skeleton and Bobsled teams currently competing in China.
In that role, she works in coordination with the U.S. Olympic Committee to set up the performance plans for the organization for each four-year Olympic cycle.
She’s also currently serving as the team leader on site in China, which adds significantly to her already lengthy list of responsibilities. She’ll make sure the athletes and teams are registered for the things they need to by registered for, that the team and coaches have everything they need to fulfill the performance plan, she’ll oversee the coordinator that arranges transportation, hotels, equipment, among other things, all while making sure the team is following IOC and Team USA rules, especially as they relate to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“So I’m in the Olympic Village with the team, which is neat, but it’s a 24-hour job,” Tracey said. “You’re making sure the athletes have everything they need and that they’re supported. I wear a lot of different hats. One of the reasons I like it is that my day is never the same, especially in the current world dealing with COVID.”
It’s no secret how the pandemic has affected these Olympics, especially with the athletes and the events basically being kept in a bubble without fans, but Tracey said the athletes have been making the most of their Olympic experience.
“I’d be remiss if I said it was the same, it’s definitely not,” Tracey said. “But (the athletes) are still here — they still look up and those rings are still there. We’re still doing everything we can to make it as much of an experience as possible. Forever they’ll still be an Olympian, which even talking about it gives me chills.”
“Going to the Olympics is not just about every four years, but it’s every day with the long hours with your teammates, the holidays missed with your family,” she continued. “I am sad for the athletes that their parents and their families can’t be here because it takes a village to get here, but we’re making the best of it.”
In the end, Tracey’s decision to bet on herself and chase her dream paid off, even if she may not have been able to compete in an Olympics herself.
Everyone has a different road, a different path and Tracey’s path ended up still taking her to the Olympics, albeit in a different capacity.
“There’s more ways to get things done than the traditional path,” she said. “I thought I’d be working in corporate law now, but instead I’m here making sure we’re crossing our T’s and dotting our I’s. So you never know what life is going to throw at you. I may not have been here if I didn’t have my support system…it really does take a village to make an Olympian.”