Ready to Rumble

Kerri Morgan is prepared to crash the smash-happy world of quad rugby

"The first time I ever got flipped — I think it was in Michigan at a tournament —the poor guy that flipped me, everybody was booing him because, you know, he flipped a girl," she says. "Well, he deserved it, actually. He was a jerk."

The Rams' only home tournament of the season took place the weekend before Halloween at South County Technical High School. In past years they haven't hosted more than a handful of spectators.

This time the stands are a quarter full.

The Rams win two games handily but throw away a match against TNT, losing by one point. During the final match against Chicago, Tucker is on her knees smacking the floor half the game. The Rams kept turning the ball over to Chicago. As St. Louis began to trail further behind, Tucker started yelling at the refs and crying "Dammit!" again and again.

Chicago's #11, who also plays for Canada's national team, has it out for Morgan, at one point ramming her right into the scoring table, sending the trophies flying.

When Greeley pops a tire, Mike Cooley's wife, Leslie, and the assistant coach, Katie Jacobson — a.k.a. the "pit crew" — sprint out to put a new wheel on his chair. During time-outs Morgan needs her foot placement adjusted by Jacobson, and Brown needs water sprayed on his face.

The score is 46-26, Chicago, halfway through the final quarter, when Tucker calmly reclines in her chair and diagnoses "a bad case of fumble-itis."

But with eighteen seconds left, Porter makes her proud by forcing a fifteen-second violation on the opponent and being sure not to reach for the ball (a foul). "Nice!" she cries. Porter races past Tucker and says, "You know how hard it was not to touch that ball? It's like being at a titty bar with free money!"

Final score: 53-36, Chicago.

"Ugly," concludes Tucker.

An hour later, most of the team has packed their van for the ride home. But Morgan is still in the gym, hunched over the floor trying to scrub away skid marks, taciturn and grimacing. She's wishing she hadn't pooped out in the final quarter of the game against TNT. She's pissed that more teammates aren't helping clean the floor. She's disappointed that reporters from KMOV (Channel 4) came by the tournament only to interview players on the subject of stem-cell research for a counterpoint to a segment on an anti-stem-cell rally.

At her loft a few weeks later, Morgan describes her politics (Republican) and her position on Missouri's hot-button stem-cell issue (complicated).

"Obviously, I'm for it," she says. "But I'm against how they advocate for it. I don't like the whole you-need-a-cure-otherwise-you-don't-have-a-life spiel. I mean, you can have a life sitting down."

Surrounding Morgan is plenty of proof: wheelchairs made for road-racing, rugby, road-biking and mountain-biking, the latest issue of Sports 'N Spokeson the counter.

Two years ago Morgan decided to get into triathlons and looked for local races. She found the Lake Saint Louis Triathlon, held every September, but worried she might have missed the deadline. "I called them up and I said, 'Hey, is it too late to register for the wheelchair division?' And there was this really looong silence. Finally they're like, 'Um, it's not too late, but we don't have a wheelchair division.'"

So Morgan explained what equipment she had and how she needed an earlier starting time than the able-bodied athletes, and that was that. "They were awesome about it," she says. "Now more wheelchair athletes do it."

Only in her sleep does Morgan let her mind wander to what life on two good legs is like. "When I dream, I run."

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