MISSOULA — As Drummond native and Montana track and field fifth-year senior Morgan Radtke opened up the outdoor season on Saturday at Dornblaser Field, there was a moment of reflection in between events.
A rare home meet in the nearly-freezing temperatures of a Montana March was the perfect beginning to the final stretch of her longstanding career.
“Oh my gosh, reflecting on this makes me pretty emotional,” Radtke said. “I loved my time here. Just the people that I get to be around at Montana. We talk about it a lot. It’s a lot different to be an athlete at Montana or Montana State because there’s no pro sports. There’s really a great community surrounding Griz athletics.”
It was always the multi-event athlete’s plan to come back for an additional season. That longevity paired with loyalty has undoubtedly returned the favor. As she looks back on her journey, Radtke has seen growth in more ways than one.
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As a competitor and a person, she has blossomed into a key contributor for the Grizzlies and someone that will sustain that impact beyond her competing days.
Radtke’s dedication to the process of what is becoming an increasingly unusual career — staying at one school the whole time and committing herself entirely — has paid off.
“Morgan is such a mature individual as a student-athlete,” first-year head coach Doug Fraley said. “She’s got so many good things going on in her life ... for her to come back for a fifth-year and be a leader on our team and lead by performance … she’s an impressive young lady.”
Versatility in competition
Sometimes, Radtke’s evolution even gives her pause.
“I am surprised at how my career developed,” she said. “Even my senior year of high school, I think I was surprised, like, ‘Oh, I do get to compete at a Division I level’ and yeah, being here has meant a lot to me.”
Recruited out of Drummond strictly as a high jumper and triple jumper, her time with the Grizzlies has ended up with her competing far beyond those initial expectations.
On Saturday, Radtke was also competing in the 200-meter dash and the long jump. She’s also ventured into the world of hurdles, javelin, and despite being string-bean thin, shot put. Her wiry strength turned her into a multi-event competitor — something she never thought would happen.
“Once I started getting in the weight room with some of the coaching that’s a little bit different at the collegiate level, I got a lot stronger and faster,” Radtke said. “Then I had a really good fall training my junior year and then they (coaching staff) were kind of were like, ‘This (multi-event competition) is something that you could do if you wanted to. You’ve had success in the jumps and you’re looking fast.’ So I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll give it a shot.’”
That led to her doing the multi in the conference meet that year, and the rest is history.
This past indoor season at the Big Sky Indoor Championships, Radtke earned a podium finish (third) in the pentathlon, which includes sprint hurdling, high jump, shot put, long jump and a flat race.
She finished in the top-five in four of the five events, showing consistency and well-roundedness.
And that’s what has pushed her every step of her career: the challenge of expanding her limits.
“Just knowing there’s potential for more,” Radtke said. “Like shot put is something I never thought I would be any good at and then in indoor, I kind of surprised myself. Having that reward, like you can get better, you can pursue these marks … that’s motivating to me.”
Scoring points for the team isn’t her only value to the Griz. Radtke’s five years of experience within the program serve as an invaluable teaching point that she’s used in helping develop the next set of Grizzly standouts.
“She does such a good job with the young athletes in taking the time to spend with them to show them the right ways,” Fraley said.
“The coaching staff, we depend a lot on our upperclassmen. We can’t be overseeing every athlete at all times and so what I notice with Morgan is she really steps in, takes those young ladies in her group under her wing and shows them the right way to be a college athlete.”
Even when competing against her own teammates.
On Saturday, Radtke was squaring off directly against freshman Perry Paffhausen and former Hellgate Knight in the long jump. She doesn’t let her competitive spirit get the best of her when it comes to mentorship.
“It’s fun,” Radtke said. “Track and field is something that’s unique because we all get to cheer for each other as much as we want our own marks to be great, I want them to all jump well as well. I think that comes from being a fifth-year. That’s a level of maturity you have to get to sometimes but yeah, I love watching them jump and I love it when they do well. It’s really rewarding for me.”
Racing to success off the track
Through her collegiate experience, Radtke has also come to find her way outside of the sports world.
With an exercise science degree from Montana, Radtke thought her career would belong in the field of healthcare — and ultimately, it does — just not for humans. Instead, for animals.
“I grew up on a ranch in Drummond and it (becoming a vet) was something that was always in the back of my mind,” Radtke said. “After COVID I went home and I said that I wasn’t sure human healthcare was something where my passion lies and just being home around agriculture, that’s something I have a great passion for.”
The Griz standout acted on those feelings, shadowing various veterinarians to see if it was “just a childhood dream” or something she could actually see herself doing. Her acceptance to the Washington State University veterinary program answers that question.
When her UM career officially ends, she’ll be headed to Pullman to begin the next stage of her life doing something she again, didn’t anticipate.
It's safe to say that being a Grizzly has prepared her for those unexpected positive advances.
Lucas Semb is the Griz football beat writer for the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @Lucas_Semb or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.