Dreams Delayed, Not Denied: Rhett's Re-Up Story

Re-up /ˈrēˌəp/ verb - a second chance, 2.0, new and improved, to do again.

A high school athlete's senior year is arguably the most important year in their career. During this time athletes are trying to take their talents to the collegiate level by signing with a program in the fall before outdoor season.

If a senior athlete chooses to sign in the spring, their athletic future is riding on successful and healthy performances.

American Heritage (Plantation) sprinter, Morgan Rhett, was ready to dominate her senior year on the track. An unfortunate turn of events during a random cross-country practice led her down one of the hardest roads of her career.

"My brain just went blank," Rhett said. "I wasn't there. I was screaming and crying. I felt like my life was over, asking myself, 'what do I do?' I didn't have a good junior year, and this was my year to come back and get everything that I wanted."

September 12, 2018

After cross country practice, Coach Damian Sutton thought it'd be fun for the athletes to play a game of sharks and minnows. Rhett was happy to play, but on her second time running back she tried to stop and turned wrong in the process.She heard a crack in her right knee and was immediately scared.

"I never felt anything like that before," she explained. "I wasn't even in excruciating pain, that's why ACL never crossed my mind. I looked and turned my body and it popped again and all the pain went away."

Coach Sutton recommended a trip to the trainer to make sure she was okay. When she got there the realization that something was wrong didn't hit Rhett yet.

The basic tests from an ACL injury ended up being inconclusive and the senior was sent to get an MRI right away. Leaving the doctor later that night Rhett was in very little pain, she was confident that she avoided injury.

"The next day I went to school, that's when It started hurting," Rhett said. "I was walking to first hour and my leg just gave out on me and I fell. Even after that, I didn't think much of it. I was just praying for it to be anything but ACL because I knew how that worked. My dad then picked me up early and took me to the doctor where they told me I tore it."

In that moment everything changed. It was hard to accept that something she'd be working so hard for, had a high likelihood of not happening at all. Rhett has been running track and field since the early age of eight, when she ran for Pembroke Pines Optimist Track Club. Ten years later, she has personal bests of 11.84 and 24.10 in the sprints.
As a freshman she anchored American Heritage's 4x400-meter relay to a 2A FHSAA Championship in 2016. Rhett went on to win another 4x400m championship in 2017; two 4x100-meter relay championships in 2017 and 2018; a third-place finish in the 200-meter and sixth-place finish in the 100-meter in 2018.

October 1, 2018

"When I got my surgery on October 1, I promised myself, I vowed to myself that I was coming back stronger," she said. "I wasn't going to let this hold me back, I've worked too hard. I knew it was going to be difficult, I just didn't know how difficult it would be."

Life after surgery was getting hard on Rhett. For the first three months of her recovery she couldn't run, however when she would go to therapy she was ahead of the curve.

"I would shock them," Rhett said. "They would constantly tell me that no one's been this far ahead in their ACL recovery before, that some of things I was able to do, when I was able to do them, was unheard of."

Rhett credits her abnormal recovery to not settling. In therapy she would push her body to its limit, doing extra reps and sets. When she left rehab, she would work on all the little things she could until she could get back running, even some thing before doctor's orders.

"I honestly was practicing walking without the crutches and without the brace before they even told me I was allowed to," she said. "I just was determined to come back because I knew everything I went through, and I wasn't going to let it stop me."

January 2019

Emotionally, tearing her ACL was taking its toll. She recalled losing 10 pounds and crying when she couldn't see how she was going to pull off the ultimate return.

"I thought the hardest part was going to be not running," Rhett said. "As you go on, the hardest thing was when you start back running and you think you can do so much more than you can… When I would go to meets and only watch, that was the hardest part emotionally. I just wanted to cry every meet; it was to the point where I didn't want to go to the meets anymore."

As the outdoor season was in full swing, Rhett had to stay patient not only with her body, but also the recruiting process. Before her injury, Rhett had visits lined up for the fall with hopes of signing before November. Once she alerted the prospective colleges she had been injured, she knew the business of the sport was in full effect.

"When I told some of the college of course some of them backed off, while others wanted to wait and see what I looked like around March, and then there were some that would say that, but I knew they weren't going to call back," Rhett said. "Every time I felt like one of the college relationships was going off, I just used that to work harder because I know how the game works. I know that it's all a business. At the end of the day I wanted to use that to add fuel to the fire."

April 6, 2019

Six months after surgery Rhett competed for the first time at the Cardinal Gibbons Last Chance Meet where she ran the 400m. She then ran the 400m at the FHSAA 2A District 15 meet. Then to close out her season, Rhett went to the FHSAA State finals for the last time and competed in the prelims for the 4x100m relay.
FHSAA 2A 4x100m Finals
"I know I could have done way better, but it was better than not running at all," she said. "Most people can't say they did what I did; that they competed the same year they tore their ACL."

May 25, 2019

What seemed out of reach at the end of 2018 was finally within grasp for Rhett after the state finals.

"I went through a really tough recruiting process; at the end of the day I know me and I'm glad people are now giving me a chance," she said. "I know what I can do, I just need a shot. I'm the hardest worker you'll meet, I don't quit, I don't like to lose. My work ethic has never and will never be a question. I never will let this injury stop me, and I won't let it be an excuse."

Rhett took three official visits to the University of Houston in October then University of Louisville and Arizona in early May.

On May 25, Rhett officially announced her athletic and academic commitment to Arizona. She made the decision official by signing her National Letter of Intent the following week at school. Grateful for the opportunity and excited for her future as a Wildcat, Rhett had enough faith to know she'd end up where she's supposed to be.

"There were so many nights that I cried because I didn't know what I was going to do," Rhett said. "It got harder because I had all these friends signing, but I just let God do his thing."

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