MIER – Morgan Tinkel looked well on her way to having a standout running career at Oak Hill High School.
Her freshman year, she won the two-mile run at the Madison-Grant Track and Field Sectional in a time of 12:24.74 and was part of the cross country team that advanced to the regional. Her sophomore year, she was part of the Golden Eagles’ semistate-qualifying cross country team and was named all-state. She helped Oak Hill return to the semistate her junior season.
Tinkel was a three-time all-Central Indiana Conference member and entered this season with the second fastest personal-best time in school history.
Following her junior season, Oak Hill coach Paige Brunner might have had high hopes for Tinkel coming into this fall. But considering what she went through during the offseason, Brunner is just happy to have her back on the team. From last winter’s swim season to the start of the fall cross country season, Tinkel had three surgeries to remove blood clots, and doctors told her she wouldn’t be able to run her senior season.
Tinkel has proven the doctors wrong and is back on the course for the Golden Eagles.
“This season has been tough for both Morgan and for me as a coach,” Brunner said. “We know of all the success she had in the past, and both of us have wanted that same type of success now. But we just have to keep reminding ourselves that it’s a blessing to have her back on the course. It’s just great to have her back in school, let alone the cross country team.”
Tinkel’s problems started in the middle of January when she was swimming in a high school meet. She felt a sharp pain in a shoulder and her arm turned purple. Tinkel went to the doctor after practice, but they couldn’t define what the problem was.
A couple of days later, Tinkel was working at the concession stand during a basketball game and her arm started turning purple again. Oak Hill Athletic Trainer Ryan Fagan started doing general tests for motion blockage.
Tinkel was sent to the Marion General Hospital Emergency Room. Doctors there told her she had tendinitis, gave her a prescription, and sent her home. A couple of days later after feeling the same symptoms, she returned to the Marion General Hospital ER where doctors put her in a sling.
A couple of weeks later, Tinkel went to Central Indiana Orthopedic in Muncie. It was there she was told she had blood clots in her subclavian vein, and she was admitted to Ball Memorial Hospital an hour later. Subclavian veins are two large veins on either side of the body.
The veins are a continuation of the axillary vein and run from the outer border of the first rib to the medial border of the anterior scalene muscle.
Tinkel was life-lined to Riley Memorial Hospital in Indianapolis where she had her first surgery to get her blood clots removed. Two weeks later Tinkel was feeling the same symptoms, so she back to Riley Hospital for her second surgery to get her blood clots removed.
Two days after that, Tinkel was at IU Hospital for her third surgery – this one to have her rib removed. She was then stabilized and sent home after two weeks.
She was supposed to have a fourth surgery – this one to have a stint put in – but a CT X-ray revealed that everything would just basically heal itself and there was no chance of the clots coming back.
The entire process lasted around eight months and forced her to miss the remainder of her swimming season and the entire track season. Doctors told Tinkel she wouldn’t be able to run or swim competitively her senior year in high school or in college, and it was just her mere determination to return to the course this fall.
“It just feels nice to be back on the course and running again,” said Tinkel, who now has the third fastest personal-best time in school history. “It still haven’t got myself back into total shape yet, but I’m getting there. With this being my senior year and my last year, I really wanted to shine, so this season has been frustrating because I haven’t been able to get back into the shape I once was in. But I still want to lead the team and do everything I can to help the team.”
As the season has progressed, Tinkel has continued to improve her times. That improvement showed during the Grant Four Meet on Sept. 20 at Eastbrook. Earning a top-five finish and a medal, Tinkel took fifth in the race with a time of 22:01. That was 90 seconds quicker than Tinkel’s previous season-best time. Tinkel said she hoped to be running the time she did at the Grant Four earlier in the season, but also understood the situation she was going through.
To get in the top five, Tinkel had to outrun Eastbrook’s Megan Cly at the end. Cly made a late surge for Tinkel, but she was able to hold her off and beat her by one second.
“That was just an awesome race,” Tinkel said. “My teammates were yelling that she was only about 30 yards behind me, and I was thinking ‘Oh, she is so close.’ I was so tired and my legs were dying. Then after we rounded that final corner I saw that she was right next to me. I just got in the mindset that I wasn’t going to lose and my adrenaline started to kick in. She was a good competitor and a sweet girl. It was a good finish for the both of us.”
Eastbrook coach Ken Yocum was impressed with Tinkel’s race.
“We came into this season wondering if she was even going to be able to run, and she provided the best finish of the night,” Yocum said following the meet. “Even though she is on another team, we are still proud of her and we have no enemies in this sport. She had a terrific race tonight.”
Tinkel said the Grant Four finish gave her more confidence heading into the championship portion of Oak Hill’s season. The Eagles compete in the CIC meet on Wednesday at Blackford. They then compete in the sectional Oct. 11 at Logansport.
“Right now, her goal is to be right near the top of the team and position herself to help this team by the end of the season,” Brunner said.
Tinkel said she would like to break 21 minutes by the end of the year.
“If I keep dropping time like I have been, then that is possible,” Tinkel said. “I would like to get as close to 21 minutes as possible and just keep doing my best.”
Tinkel’s high school athletic career won’t end after cross country. The Oak Hill senior plans to be a three-sport athlete again this season and will swim and run track for the Golden Eagles.