Story by Mallory Tucker, Staff writer
It’s the most wonderful time of the year: the holidays. For most college students, Thanksgiving provides a quick getaway to spend relaxing at home with family and friends before buckling down for finals. But this Thanksgiving will be a little different for student athletes Nadine Innes, Haily Morgan and Jeanne Masson.
Tuesday evening or early Wednesday morning, Morgan and Masson will pack their bags into Innes’ car and travel five hours with her to her parents’ home in Union, Kentucky. The freshman tennis players Morgan and Masson are natives of Anthem, Arizona and Dinard, France, respectively. Anthem is just 20 miles north of Phoenix, and Dinard is a small town on the eastern coast of France, near the sea.
Traveling home for Thanksgiving break would prove very expensive for each athlete, and since Masson has never experienced Thanksgiving before, freshman golfer Innes’ gave them both an open invitation to join her family for a traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings.
“It’s just expensive to travel back home,” Morgan said. “Thanksgiving – with it being 10 days before Christmas break – my parents were like, ‘You can wait 10 days, we’re not going to bring you back and send you back four days later.’”
Innes and Morgan discovered they would be roommates late this summer, due in part, they believe, to a chance meeting on a flight. Morgan met a friend of Women’s Head Golf Coach Velvet Milkman during her official visit to Murray State, and she thinks Milkman may have helped arrange the setup for the two athletes. Morgan soon added Innes on Facebook and they began texting up until move-in day when they met, and she also met Innes’ mother.
“My mom always told me before coming to college, ‘If any of your friends need somewhere to go during break, they’re welcome to come,’” Innes said. “So I extended the invitation to Haily and also to Jeanne. Just whatever I can do to help them to make it easier for them, because it’s harder for them to go back.”
Masson, at first had planned to rent a car and take a road trip with another teammate during the break, but when those plans fell through she decided to tag along with the duo.
“I asked Nadine because I didn’t want to be alone and her parents said yes,” Masson said. “We don’t have Thanksgiving in France. I don’t really know what Thanksgiving is.”
Masson has no idea what to expect going into this road trip, but she’s excited to see Innes’ hometown culture and meet her family. She has only been to a few U.S. cities outside of Murray, and her biggest grievance is the food – something that Innes and Morgan hope changes by the end of their holiday adventure.
“I think she’s going to go crazy,” Morgan said. “We’re always talking about the food and how different it is here than it is in France. She’s basing that off of Winslow only. We went to Panera Bread and she’s like, ‘This is so good.’ We’re like, ‘See!’”
“She hasn’t really had a home-cooked meal,” Innes reiterated. “Both of my parents love to cook, and I think it’ll definitely change her mind. Hopefully!”
While both Morgan and Masson are excited and grateful to be spending their days off in the Innes home, it isn’t easy being away from family for so long, and they’re both battling cases of the homesick blues but can see the light at the end of the tunnel in Winter Break.
“I am homesick now, actually,” Masson said. “I can’t wait to be home, because we are in the offseason and don’t do anything except lifting in the morning. I think this one will be special because I didn’t see them since the middle of August. There will be a lot of emotion I think.”
Morgan’s family, who spends every holiday from Easter to Valentine’s Day together and never misses a birthday meal, will travel to her grandparents’ house to gather with all of her cousins and catch up with extended family. Innes’ extended family lives in California – just as she did until she was 12 – and are unable to make the trip to Kentucky this year.
“As happy as I am to be going home with Nadine and spending it with her, it is heartbreaking knowing everyone’s going to be there and I won’t be,” Morgan said. “It’s sad, but I know that I’ll be there in heart and they’ll be with me. We can Facetime and call each other and stuff.”
Besides the main event of the meal, the Innes’ family usually watches the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – a tradition both Innes and Morgan are excited to see Masson’s reaction to.
“I don’t know what she’ll think of that,” Innes said. “She’ll probably be a little confused.”
The girls plan to spend the rest of their break exploring Union and learning what Innes does for fun in her hometown, in addition to braving the crowds for Black Friday shopping and learning a little more about each others’ sports.
“Since she plays golf and we play tennis – I’m horrible at golf – so we were going to go play golf and then take her to play tennis,” Morgan said.
“Attempt to play tennis,” Innes corrected her.
The life of a student-athlete is busy, stressful and competitive, but for athletes far from home like Morgan and Masson, it presents even more of a challenge.
Both have taken it head-on, however, and fellow athletes like Innes and supportive coaches ease the transition.
“Coming here was not tough,” Masson said. “I miss (my family) a lot, but it’s my choice, and I don’t regret coming here.”
“All of our coaches and trainers are really good about making sure we have breaks around those holidays so that we can spend them doing something enjoyable and not having to be sore in the gym or playing,” Morgan said.
Thanksgiving is in near sight and Christmas is just around the corner, but at least one of the three friends is already thinking about next year. While grateful for the road trip they’re about to embark on, Morgan is hoping they can fly next Thanksgiving, rather than taking a 26-hour trek on wheels.
“Next thanksgiving, we’re going to Arizona,” she said. “We won’t road trip, because it’s too far, but we’ll fly.”