BOZEMAN — Patrick Casey is one of the most decorated distance runners to ever wear a Montana State uniform. The same can be said for his career at Laurel High school.
Casey won his share of Montana state high school championships before becoming a three-time All-American, as well as the first sub-four-minute miler (non-altitude adjusted) in state history while at MSU before transferring to the University of Oklahoma in 2012.
For Ty Mogan — a Laurel grad and currently one of the top distance runners for the Bobcats — the connection is natural. Casey is someone Mogan admires and a competitor he strives to emulate. In a way, they’re kindred spirits.
“Ever since high school, knowing that Patrick Casey started his career here, that was a big motivation to kind of follow in his footsteps but at the same time make my own,” Mogan, a redshirt junior, said during a recent interview.
Mogan is so far fulfilling his ambitions.
During the cross country season this fall, Mogan has positioned himself into the role of MSU’s pace-setter. On Sept. 29, at a meet hosted by the University of Minnesota, Mogan placed second in the 8-kilometer race with a time of 24:34.8 — less than two seconds behind the winner, Harvard's Kieran Tuntivate.
Eleven days earlier, Mogan was named the Big Sky Conference’s male cross country athlete of the week after easily winning the 5-mile race at the MSU Cross Country Classic. The performance spearheaded the Bobcats to an overall team victory, topping rivals Idaho State and Montana.
Mogan had redshirted the season prior, so the event was his first as an active runner for the Bobcats cross country team in two years. Mogan became the Bobcats' first Big Sky athlete of the week in cross country since the 2015 season.
But things haven’t always been this good for Mogan. As he described it to 406mtsports.com, Mogan had to overcome a handful of personal problems to become the successful competitor he is now.
At the end of his high school career and on into his freshman year at MSU, he said, Mogan’s parents faced marital problems and eventually separated, which cut into the close family bonds he had felt growing up.
“That was by far one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through,” Mogan said. “I grew up Catholic, and one of the main things about Catholicism is that your family is your stronghold. When my parents split up I kind of lost the drive to be happy.
“When my family was together is when I was happiest. I kind of viewed the separation as, ‘I can’t be happy anymore, so what now?’
This led to behavioral problems such as vandalizing property on the MSU campus, blowing up at himself after subpar workouts, feelings of depression and even episodes of self-harm. Mogan said he resorted to frequently “cutting” himself after graduating from Laurel High as a coping mechanism.
In one instance, as a member of the Bobcats, Mogan said he smashed a guitar belonging to the MSU spirit squad that had been left behind in a locker room. Mogan was suspended for a meet, was made to do community service and had to personally apologize to the entire cheer team.
At that point, there were serious questions about Mogan’s temperament — and about whether or not he should be allowed to continue his career in Bozeman.
“That was the main thing that kind of gave people the idea that Ty Mogan maybe isn’t the best fit for Montana State,” he said.
Mogan admitted to being a bad teammate. He knew he had to change his behavior, and he was ultimately afforded a second chance with the program.
Beyond his own well-being, Mogan said he had greater motivation to clean up his act: the welfare of his family, primarily for his parents and his two younger siblings back home.
“That second chance was the wakeup call,” said Mogan, who credits coach Lyle Weese for his bounce-back. “I thank this program sincerely. Knowing how much success I’ve had here and how much that makes my family happy, that’s the whole reason why I run. My family is my anchor in life.
“I think the main part of that was that my family needed a person to look up to. When my family came to watch me run, or if I told them about good workouts that I had, it made them happy. And that’s what made me feel like what I was running for.
“I love the individual accomplishments that you can get from running, but the main reason I run now is that it makes my family happy. It seems like when I succeed, I don’t see the separation or the hardships we’ve encountered when I see them happy watching me run.”
Mogan and the Bobcats will next compete at the NCAA Division I Pre-National Invitational in Madison, Wisconsin, on Saturday.