'There's no ceiling for how good she can be'
● By Steven Hoffman
Morgan Curl’s routine is to wake up early enough each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday so that she can make the 45-minute drive to where the Delaware Swim Team holds its early-morning practices. She’ll swim for 60 or 90 minutes, and then head to Oxford Area High School for a full day of classes. After school, she’ll swim and work out some more. The schedule isn’t any less demanding on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when Curl will usually put in three more hours of practice. All that work is in hopes of shaving eight-tenths of a second off her time in the 500 freestyle.
“We train a lot,” Curl said during an interview in November. “There’s nothing better than when you look at the board and you’ve dropped your time.”
For Curl, hard work and determination come naturally, which is a good thing because in her chosen sport two-tenths of a second can mean the difference between success and failure, and the athlete who is willing to work the hardest is usually the one who will see the results.
As the 2015-2016 swimming season gets underway, Curl, a junior, is looking to earn a trip to states for the third consecutive year for the Hornets. As a sophomore, she was a finalist in the 2014-15 Pennsylvania AAA State Championships, finishing in sixth place with a time of 5:00.82 in the 500 freestyle.
According to Michael Price, Oxford’s athletic director, the school hasn’t had a female swimmer as accomplished as Curl in quite some time, and she’s in the process of rewriting the Hornets’ record books. She is currently ranked 17th in Pennsylvania on collegeswimming.com, and 406th overall for the class of 2017. She has her sights sets on competing competitively in college after she graduates in June of 2017.
Curl danced and tried horseback riding when she was younger, but swimming was always her favorite sport.
“My mom always tells me that I was born in the water,” Curl explained. “I would stay in the pool all the time and if they tried to take me out, I would cry.”
Swimming became a year-long pursuit about four years ago. In addition to competing for the Hornets, she also trains with the Delaware Swim Team.
“Morgan is a very talented swimmer,” explained Pablo Marmolejo, the program director and head coach for the Delaware Swim Team. “She has a great feel for the water, and her level of commitment is very high.”
Marmolejo explained that only an extremely dedicated athlete would make the 45-minute trip to practice before and after school. When she's in the water, Curl is always focused on improving herself.
“She never misses a practice, and she always tries very hard,” Marmolejo said.
As a member of the Delaware Swim Team, Curl has the opportunity to compete with local standouts like Emma Brinton and Olivia Paoletti, who last season helped lead Avon Grove to its first Ches-Mont League National Division Championship.
Curl said that one reason that she likes swimming is because, while it’s individually competitive, swimmers are still a part of a team. The opportunity to challenge herself against the top high school swimmers in Pennsylvania was a positive experience for her when she made it to states.
“It was a confidence booster,” she explained. “I knew that states was really competitive. I didn’t think that it would be as competitive as it was.”
Her background as a dancer helped her establish good technique as a swimmer, which is one of her strengths in the sport.
Marmolejo said that through hard work, Curl has improved her underwater kicking, and has very good technique overall.
The 500 freestyle is her strongest event. Curl believes that her height—she’s now five-foot-eleven—is an asset in the distance events. That’s a good height for college and professional swimmers, and college recruiters consider height when they are deciding if a swimmer might have the potential for success at the next level.
Marmolejo is convinced that, as Curl works hard to continue to improve her techniques and make the most of her physical skills, she will accomplish her fastest swimming at the collegiate level. He sees the potential for her to compete at the Division 1 level for a very good school. During the next year, they will learn a lot more about the caliber of schools that might be potential landing spots for Curl once she graduates from Oxford.
Even though she is very dedicated to swimming, Curl is also a standout in the classroom. She currently has a weighted grade-point average of 4.4, making her one of the top 20 students in the class. With her demanding practice schedule, there’s little time for many other after-school activities, but she is a member of the National Honor Society.
Curl is focused on the upcoming season for Oxford. She is optimistic about the Hornets' development as a team, and she would like to earn another berth at states. She also wants to improve her time in the 500 freestyle to below five minutes.
With her drive to succeed, Marmolejo expects Curl to attain all her goals.
“I think she's going to be great,” Marmolejo said. “She has a lot of potential. She knows that she has a special talent—the physical talent, and then you combine that with a good work ethic. There's no ceiling for how good she can be.”