It’s been eight months since McKenzie Morgan walked away from a traumatic single-engine plane crash in the mountains near Meeteetse, Wyoming.
It's the kind of event that makes a no-out, bases-loaded jam look like child’s play.
Sports has a way of imitating life, and the headstrong Morgan, a senior pitcher on the Billings Senior softball team, has kept a keen perspective on hers since the day the crash occurred.
“I don’t really know how to explain it, but I don’t let a lot of things go to my head,” she said Saturday after a game against Great Falls High. “I take it all in stride.
“I’ve been pitching since I was 10, and I’ve gotten in a lot of tough situations and I’ve worked through them, and I’ve seen that it will be OK. I know there is a big difference between a softball game and a life, but I’m able to keep a cool head.”
Last August, while making a solo flight as part of the training for her pilot’s license, Morgan crashed a Cessna 172 near Francs Peak, the highest point in the Absaroka Range.
Morgan was unwittingly flying in the wrong direction and eventually got boxed into a canyon. She managed to touch down on the terrain, but her front wheels got caught in the rocks and the plane flipped.
Morgan, who comes from a family of pilots, estimated she was traveling at about 40 mph at the time of the crash, which allowed her to emerge with only whiplash, a sprained knee, and cuts on her fingers. She escaped the fuselage by breaking out the windows.
In spite of the shock from the ordeal, Morgan was in the air flying again with members of her family two days later.
“I didn’t want to become afraid of it. I didn’t want it to get to me,” she said. “It was a lot to take in at once, but it got me over that fear initially.”
Morgan said she didn’t have trouble overcoming the accident. She had no post-traumatic stress. She stayed busy with school. She also joined the Broncs swim team in the winter. She eventually finished her flight training and obtained her pilot’s license in March.
“I’ve had great instruction and I know what to do in the event of an accident,” Morgan said. “If I hadn’t known what I was doing I wouldn’t be here today.”
Now in the middle of the softball season, Morgan wants to be thought of as a leader on a Broncs team that has a good mix of veteran leadership and young talent. Though she took the loss Saturday in a 13-3 defeat to the Bison, Morgan wasn’t disappointed with the way she performed.
“I felt pretty good with my throwing,” she said. “I hit my spots. I struck some girls out. They didn’t have a lot of hard hits.”
Upon graduating from Senior, Morgan plans to attend the University of Montana and is already considering law school. Morgan said she may try to walk on to the Grizzlies’ fledgling softball program.
As for her piloting career, she still wants to obtain her instrument rating, which would allow her to fly through clouds, and at night. Morgan said she may ultimately pursue commercial flight.
“Everything is a learning experience,” she said. “Especially the crash. I took it in stride. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and I’ve had to work with it.”