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Athlete of the Week: Syd Morris

By Joe Frescott, Sports Editor

Over 360 miles away from home, dawning the baby blue and gold leotard for just the thirteenth time in her young career, Syd Morris cheered as their teammate Annalisa Page completed her first beam routine of the season. Morris, knowing their name would be called next, felt a sense of unwavering confidence. 

For most, this would be a pressure-packed moment. With the unfamiliarity of the New Hampshire gym, the stakes of waiting nearly ten months to compete since the NCAA Regionals, aches and pains from sixteen years of training, the spotlight was bright. But that never phased Morris. As the team frequently recites, it was time for them to “do their normal.” Little did they know, this would not be a normal routine. 

Standing across the beam, one of the four events the all-arounder competes in for LIU, Morris lunged up, balancing her feet on the four-foot-wide wooden plank that she practically grew up on. Seizing the moment, Morris executed her routine to perfection. 

Met with the roar of cheers from coaches and teammates alike, they celebrated briefly before advising their teammate Alana Ricketts, who was due next. It was at this moment that Morris, unknowingly, saw her hard work pay off. 

“That meet had the best energy from our team out of any competition compared to the last year. It grounded me, I like to say,” Morris said. “The funny part is I didn’t know that one of the judges flashed a ten because I was trying to give my next teammate a pep talk. So everyone started screaming in my ear and it freaked me out a lot, but it was incredible. We have set personal goals for ourselves and we would have multiple meetings saying it out loud, and one of my goals was getting a ten. We had said it the night before the competition. It was one of those goals that instead of thinking about it, came true and it was very surreal. It felt really incredible because the team put all of their energy.”

Conquering one of her season goals in just their first meet, Morris watched as the second judge raised a 9.95, making her combined score a 9.975. Finishing with an all-around score of 39.375, this would have been a program record, had they not already broken their previous program record of 39.3 (recorded in a dual meet with NC State and Temple on Feb. 26), a week later at Michigan State with a 39.55 on March 5, 2023 last season. 

Morris’s performance led the Sharks to victory, defeating New Hampshire and Bridgeport with a 195.225 team score. The record-setting performance wasn’t just the best beam score in the young history of LIU gymnastics, but the best in the entire NCAA, a record she still holds four weeks into the season. 

This unparalleled success as just a sophomore wasn’t always in the cards for Syd.

Courtesy of Steve Tressler

Blue, yellow, black, green and red. Interwoven to signify global unity, these rings represented the hopes and dreams of a young Syd Morris. 

“When I started I shared the dream that 99 percent of young athletes share of going to the Olympics. As I got older and kept performing, I was reaching these new levels and realized that it could actually be a possibility,” they said.

  An energetic and eccentric child, Morris started gymnastics at the age of three. By the time she had reached high school, she was competing nationally through the U.S. Gymnastics “Elite” program. Qualifying for national competitions such as the HOPES and U.S. Championships, Morris was on track to be an Olympic athlete. And then the world stopped, and a nagging issue became unavoidable. 

“I had back pain for a couple of years, but being at the level I was at, you didn’t really have time to stop, because if you stop you fall behind and that dream can slip away. Then COVID hit and I was stuck at home for eight weeks. No training, we just had ZOOM conditioning, which was not enough to hold the physical strength I needed to perform the way I wanted. By the time I got back to the gym, we had a National team camp hosted there because we couldn’t travel at the time. It had only been two weeks since I started getting back into things, so I think I rushed myself,” Morris admitted. “I was warming up a beam skill and landed on the floor the wrong way and that just blew the pain over the wall. I could barely walk for two weeks. It was a very heavy hassle to carry on my shoulders and it sort of forced me a step back when I had to start my recovery process, which lasted six months,” Morris said. “I knew it was taking a big chunk of time, a vital chunk of time that I would need so I decided to instead veer off the path I had been on for so long and shoot for a new goal, which was to finish out my senior season in a clean and safe way and then be able to shoot for collegiate gymnastics. That is where I wanted to go after the Olympics anyway, but it just started earlier than I expected.” 

With their eyes no longer on the prize of Olympic gold, Morris made tremendous strides in her recovery and was soon back to form. Placing fourth in her competition at Nationals in her senior year, they surpassed even their own expectations. Still, they weighed a few options, including taking a gap year to fully recover. That was until Coach Randy Lane made his pursuit of making Morris a Shark. 

“Randy [Lane] reached out to me and this was when I didn’t really know what phase I was in at the moment. He came to my gym and he put all of his interest and care into me because he could tell I was very on and off about these decisions. [Coach Lane] showed me that even after everything I had been through I would still be a vital part of the team and that he ‘would feel honored if I joined,’ which as an athlete who worked towards something and had to just take a step back and work towards something else, it felt really good to hear.”

Committing to LIU proved to be the right decision for Morris. Putting their exceptional gymnastics skills aside, Morris is actively pursuing her other passion, and keeping the family tradition alive.

“I was a theatre major for two days and I switched to film… My whole family has always been a movie family, and my brother got into directing first. He was always the movie connoisseur, he goes to a film school in LA and he loves it. My perspective on film is that I didn’t know who I was outside of the gym for so long that it is fascinating to me that all these different people who have all of these outside lives can sit on a set and act like a thousand different characters. That also comes with method acting, having to train your brain to be these people that were never introduced to before,” Morris said. “I am the actor in the family so that is what I want to pursue. I also do screenwriting, directing, we really touch everything. You can never know too much about the industry. That is where I pulled my intrigue from. When I was a little younger I always loved it but I thought it was one of those little kid dream jobs like ‘I wanna go to space or be a veterinarian,’ but it never left. When I got to college and was told I could be a film major and do all of this stuff that you had been thinking about since you were a kid, Why not?”

The film major’s favorite on-screen flick is Scream, a choice that stems from their love of horror movies, despite their belief that modern horror “all follow the same plotline.” Don’t ask her what her favorite scene or character from Hannah Montana is. She didn’t watch it. In her free time, Morris enjoys listening to music and spending time with friends that she considers a “close-knit community that bring out all of the quirks that I have.” 

Through the many adversities they faced, Morris has learned valuable lessons that they will carry with them throughout their journey. 

“That everyone is human. Sometimes it is hard to remember that because you get so sucked into the sport that you lose touch with everything outside. I was also homeschooled from elementary school all the way until I got to here. That especially made me lose touch with another reality. When I took a step back, it was a big breather to remember to take care of yourself; mentally and physically, so that it doesn’t reach the breaking point. It doesn’t mean your dreams are out of reach, but you may just have to work a little more strategically for them. It also taught me that having to let go and start a new one can be upsetting in the moment, but it doesn’t mean it is the end. So if you get knocked down, you could get back up, and college was my way of getting back up.”

Do you know an athlete that you believe should be our next athlete of the week? Let us know! Email us at or contact us on Instagram @thetideatliu. 

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