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CANYONS'S MORGAN HAS PROBLEMS ON RUN; TOURETTE'S IS AMONG DAILY BATTLES.

Byline: Kirby Lee Special to the Daily News

The stares and ridicule are nothing new for Canyon High freshman cross country runner Ryan Morgan.

They began in the first grade when Morgan was forced to wear full leg braces for four years to correct a hip condition.

The snickers continued throughout junior high from Morgan's involuntary grunts and body twitching referred to as tics, the result of a neurological disorder known as Tourette syndrome. Morgan also suffers from attention deficit disorder.

``People think I am weird or something is sort of wrong with me,'' Morgan said. ``I used to be embarrassed, but I have learned to not let it bother me or take it seriously. I try to ignore it or make jokes about it to make it look like I did it on purpose. It has made me a stronger person.''

So has dealing with the death of his father Drake Morgan about two years ago of a heart attack at age 45. Morgan still has vivid memories of discovering the body.

This fall, however, most of the attention the 5-4, 101-pound Morgan has gained has been for his accomplishments in cross country.

Despite a continuing battle with Tourette's, Morgan has earned a place on the Canyon varsity as the Cowboys' fifth man. Bolstered by the arrival of Morgan, Canyon won the Foothill League championship for its first league title since 1991 and advanced to Saturday's Southern Section Division I finals at Mt. San Antonio College after a six-year drought.

Tourette's affects about 100,000 Americans. Former Dodgers outfielder Jim Eisenreich and former NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf are among notable professional athletes who have the disorder.

Although his teammates have grown accustomed to Morgan's vocal outbursts and body movements, the tics draw looks from competitors at the starting line. During a race, Morgan's tics typically consist of 360-degree turns a quick touch of the ground with his hands as if to pick up a stone or a front roll. It happens so quickly they are difficult for the unsuspecting to spot.

``When he is around strangers, Ryan is very good at covering it,'' Canyon coach Dave DeLong said. ``He is very smooth almost like an acrobat. It is very hard to see unless you are looking for it.''

Stress triggers the majority of Morgan's tics. The frequency has increased dramatically over recent weeks with the added pressure of the league championships and postseason competition. Morgan experienced more than 10 tics during the preliminaries last Saturday at Mt. SAC and the constant stopping and starting took a great toll during the 3-mile race.

Trying to fight the tics only makes the situation worse and the best remedy has been to focus his energies elsewhere. Morgan said he rarely experiences tics when he plays the trumpet because he is so focused on reading notes.

``I can tell when it is coming,'' Morgan said. ``It is sort of the feeling of trying to tell someone something but you can't.''

In the first grade, there were concerns Morgan might not walk properly when he was diagnosed with Legg-Perthes-Calve condition in his left hip, a gradual weakening of the upper end of the thigh bone where it meets the pelvis.

Morgan wore a double leg cast for four months, followed by a full-length double leg brace for four years to allow the joint to heal. Morgan wore the brace 24 hours a day, which meant he was forced to sleep on his back.

Morgan has no noticeable limp, but the braces stored in the garage serve as a grim reminder of those times. The hip injury was caused by damage to an artery that supplies blood to the joint. Doctors do not know how the artery was injured, but think it may have occurred when Morgan, who remains very hyperactive, repeatedly jumped or went down a slide as a child.

Morgan's mother, Martha, was reluctant to allow Ryan to participate in sports until this fall because she feared he would reinjure the hip.

This summer, Ryan was given the go ahead to begin running this summer to train for the pole vault with his brother Drake, a Canyon senior and two-time Foothill League champion. Morgan has experienced some hip soreness, but the pain has subsided with a day or two of rest.

Martha calls Ryan's discovery of his love for running as a turning point in his life and a huge boost to his self-esteem.

Morgan's grades have significantly improved since he began running. Morgan was held back a year because of behavioral problems in elementary and junior high. But he recently had a 3.8 grade point average on his 10-week progress report.

``Everybody has been so supportive. I have never seen my son have so much fun in his life than in the past six months,'' Martha Morgan said. ``I have finally come to piece of mind. Who knows what the future holds or whether he will need a hip replacement at 30, 40 or 50? What are important are the wonderful memories. This has been what has been missing in his life.''

CAPTION(S):

photo

PHOTO Canyon runner Ryan Morgan has overcome Tourette's syndrome and a childhood hip injury.

Kirby Lee/Special to the Daily News
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 18, 1999
Words:875
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