Jan. 7, 2013
When collegiate softball days come to an end and the time comes to graduate from the University of Minnesota and move on in the world, there are many paths to follow.
Former Golden Gopher Morgan Holden's path has led her all over the world. A native of New Mexico, Holden graduated in 2001 with a degree in health and wellness. After graduating, she returned to Albuquerque, N.M., where she took classes at the University of New Mexico to become a physician's assistant.
About four-and-a-half years ago, she joined the Army Reserve. She's advanced to her current rank of Captain, and recently was deployed to Iraq for 11 months as a physician's assistant with the Army's 77th Sustainment Brigaide out of Fort Dix, N.J.
"I work as a physician's assistant in the Emergency Room at The University of New Mexico Hospital, which is the biggest hospital in the state and the only Level One trauma center," Holden said. "When I was deployed, I was essentially their medical provider, so I was in charge of about 12 medics and ran an aid station to take care of wounded soldiers."
Holden's always had an interest in medicine, and that career path began in the fall of 1997, when she came to the Land of 10,000 Lakes after graduating from La Cueva HS in Los Lunas, N.M.
An outfielder and second baseman, Holden played for some of the most successful teams ever at Minnesota. She was a freshman during the 1998 season, when the Gophers went 48-21 and finished third in the Big Ten. That team advanced to an NCAA Regional, where it won a pair of games before being eliminated by eventual NCAA champion Fresno State.
Holden's sophomore season saw similar results, as Minnesota advanced to its second-straight NCAA Regional during a 48-20 season. The Gophers took second in the Big Ten at 16-8, won their first-ever Big Ten Tournament title, and once again won a pair of games at the regional, before being eliminated despite opening with a pair of wins. This time, Minnesota fell to Missouri after dropping the previous game to eventual national champ UCLA.
"Winning the Big Ten Tournament by beating Michigan twice on the same day on their own field was like the best softball day ever, because Michigan was the reigning everything, and we had a great day," Holden said. "And then we went to UCLA for the regional and lost to UCLA, who went on to win the national championship that year."
The 96 combined wins during Holden's first two years are the most in program history for any two-year span, and the teams she played on as a junior and senior combined for 67 more victories, giving the Gophers a total of 163 victories during her career. Holden also has the distinction of being one of the few Gophers to have hit two home runs in one game, despite the fact that she had just three career HRs.
"We lost that game in extra innings to Ohio State! I don't remember if it was Spring Break, but I know we spent like a full week in Ohio, which was really boring for a college athlete when everyone else was in Florida or California," Holden said. "I wasn't an amazing hitter by any means, but it was just one of those days when the ball looked like a watermelon. I don't remember which came first, but one of the two I hit bounced off the top of the fence and went over. I was always one of the smallest players on the team, so home runs were not my thing, but I just happened to get ahold of two that day."
After graduating, Holden said she began to bodybuild, and she credits strength and conditioning coach Sara Wiley for helping to build healthy habits that have helped her remain in great shape after her playing days were done.
"Coach Wiley's been amazing. She's one of the best coaches I've ever had, hands down, and she helped establish the lifestyle that I still maintain today," Holden said. "I love to work out, I still stay in shape, and I still play ball. I still feel like I'm 20, even though I'm not. Coach Wiley really lit a fire in me, and part of my lifestyle is due to the fact that I'm in medicine so it's important for health, but I like to be able to do what I want, when I want, how I want, and if my body is fit I can pretty much do that without hurting myself or having limitations."
Holden's next milestone will take place this spring, when she'll get married to her fiance from Norway. He attended the University of North Dakota, but the couple met in Albuquerque.
"One of the girls I played with -- Christine (Lindberg) Dennie -- is going to be one of my brides maids when I get married this spring. We've been great friends ever since college," Holden said. "So the softball memories were great, but the friendships you develop during that time together are wonderful."