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Ball to keep on swimming for Cougars of Minnesota-Morris

Ball to keep on swimming for Cougars of Minnesota-Morris Ball to keep on swimming for Cougars of Minnesota-Morris

The first contact Morgan Ball received from a collegiate swim program wound up being the best one for the Medford Area Senior High standout, who has rewarded that first school, the University of Minnesota-Morris with a commitment to swim for the Cougars next fall.

Ball made the decision to swim for Minnesota-Morris a few months ago. She, her family and other close supporters marked the occasion Monday at Marilyn’s Fire Station when Ball put her name on the NCAA Division III Student-Athlete Celebratory Signing Form.

“It’s really exciting,” Ball said. “I’ve always wanted to be a college swimmer, so signing with the Cougars is really exciting for me.”

Monday’s event came just over two weeks after Ball completed a strong fouryear career with Medford’s girls swim program. She is the school record holder in the 100-yard butterfly and is part of the 200-yard medley relay team that earned a sixth-place medal and set a school record at the WIAA Division 2 state meet at Waukesha South on Nov. 13.

Minnesota-Morris emerged as the choice over five other schools she applied to, all of whom offered sizable academic scholarships. Ball plans to major in math and pursue a secondary teaching license and as well as coaching certification in swimming. The other finalists in her college search were Gustavus Adolphus (St. Peter, Minn.), North Central College (Naperville, Ill.), Hamline University (St. Paul, Minn.), Midland University (Fremont, Neb.) and Calvin University (Grand Rapids, Mich.).

“I had a ton of colleges looking at me and I got offers for quite a few scholarships as well,” Ball said. “But once I figured out Morris was the one I didn’t want to look at any more colleges. I put myself in Morris mode I guess.

“Morris was actually the first college that I looked at,” she added. “People always tell me that the first colleges you look at are the ones you fall in love with. I didn’t believe them, but after I looked at more colleges, I was like, ‘yeah, Morris is definitely the one I want to go and swim with.’” The Cougars’ swim program is in its 17th year and has been led from day one by head coach Dave Molesworth. Minnesota-Morris is an NCAA Division III athletic program that competes in most sports in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference. The women’s swim team competes in the Liberal Arts Conference championships. The Cougars were fourth out of 11 teams at the 2020 championships last February. Unfortunately it’s 2020-21 season has not gotten off the ground due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ball appears to be a good fit. Already in her high school career, she has recorded times that would place on Morris’s top-20 all-time lists, including a 100-yard butterfly time of 1:02.15 set in 2019 that would rank second in program history.

“It’s like five hours away from here,” Ball said. “It’s a little bit of a haul, but that’s all right. I’m looking forward to the new faces, new people, different town. It’s not that big. It’s in the middle of nowhere. It’s like Medford I assume. They have a small swim program so I liked getting to know everybody there and getting that one-on-one time. I just love how they set up their practices, the enjoyment they have during meets and their team bondings.

Ball said the goal of becoming a college swimmer came into focus all the way back in middle school. The stress of trying to impress college coaches and finding the right place hit hard last year. With the decision made before her senior year with the Raiders got going, Ball’s mind was freed and she had her best season yet.

“I’d say my butterfly has gotten a lot better with tempo and everything,” Ball said. “I’d say my freestyle has gotten a little bit better since I’ve been part of the 400-yard freestyle relay team for awhile now. I definitely think my breaststroke has gotten better as well, even though I’m not a breaststroker. I got thrown into some breaststroke events. Even as a person, just being a captain for two years has increased my leadership skills.”

Joining Ball at Monday’s signing were Medford head coach Betsy Meinel and Ball’s personal trainer Mandy Haenel. Ball gave her high school coaches Meinel, Sally Nazer and Morgan Wilson as well as Haenel much of the credit for her steady improvement.

“Betsy and Sally have definitely been my biggest supporters,” Ball said. “Sally retired two years ago. But last year she still gave us a package for state. This year, she still showed up at the state sendoff. She still likes to support us even though she’s not coaching. Betsy has been there for the past four years and I definitely think she made me the swimmer I am today. Morgan definitely helped as well, even though she’s only been coaching for two years. I definitely was glad to have her as part of the team. Mandy as a trainer, she’s been helping me since I think freshman or sophomore year. I’ve been working with her with weight lifting and stuff. She’s definitely among my number-one supporters as well.”

“Morgan is one of the hardest-working swimmers I have ever had the pleasure of coaching,” Meinel said. “She was always willing to put in the effort both in and out of the pool and it paid off during her high school career. I still remember watching her break the 100 butterfly record last year at sectionals. That memory is one of my favorite moments as a coach. Her dedication and endless drive helped erase a 26-year old record, and the pure elation from her and her teammates that day was magical. She truly earned that honor.

“I am very glad she is continuing her swimming career at college,” Meinel added. “ I foresee her continuing to drop time and becoming an even faster swimmer at the collegiate level. I can’t wait to see what she will do in the coming years at Morris.”

This year’s Raiders only had two seniors –– Ball and Erin Bergman (St. Cloud State) are both going on to swim at the next level.

“I think that’s awesome,” Ball said. “We swam together since second grade. She was definitely a good competitor. She pushed me in the pool and in dry land as well.”

According to Ball’s mother, Wendy Berglund, Minnesota-Morris has a unique history. In the late 1800s, the first campus buildings housed an American Indian boarding school. In the early 1900s, the campus was transferred to the state of Minnesota under the stipulation that American Indian students “shall at all times be admitted to such school free of charge for tuition.” Ball is a fourth-generation member of the Sault Saint Marie tribe of Chippewa Indians of Michigan. For her academic achievements, Ball has also been awarded their highest academic scholarship and has been invited to participate in their community of scholars event for a chance to further increase her scholarship award.