CrossFit Games Teen Athlete Jacob Morris Passes Away

December 16, 2019 by
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Eighteen-year-old CrossFit Games athlete Jacob Morris passed away on December 13, just weeks after having heart surgery.

In late 2017, Morris and his family discovered he had a bicuspid aortic valve and an enlarged heart. After having a stress test done and an MRI, Morris’s family and doctors determined he would be able to safely continue training.

In an Instagram post Morris wrote, “After all the tests my doctor and parents agreed that I could continue CrossFit but I had to be very aware of my body and if I ever got symptoms I would have to let them know immediately. I also needed to see my cardiologist every 6 months to redo my echo to make sure my heart was still ok for me to keep training.”

Morris did keep training, taking second in the Boys 16 – 17 division in the Open, qualifying for the CrossFit Games. But just one month before Morris was to leave for Madison, his doctor requested another MRI to make sure that his heart would be able to withstand competing at the Games. All tests showed it would be safe for him to compete, on the condition that he lower his training volume once he returned.

Jacob and his family went to Madison, where he placed 7th in his division. But just six weeks later, Morris woke up one night not being able to breathe. After another follow-up with his doctor, they discovered that Jacob would need surgery.

After a postponement due to a cold, Morris underwent what’s called a Ross procedure to have his valve replaced. “We liked this option best because I won’t have to be on blood thinners and there is a chance my next surgery may not have to be open heart. All the others guaranteed another OHS. I’ve been able to do some exercise but nothing like I was before. That has been hard but I get very tired very quickly so I’m glad I have cut back some,” he wrote. 

His spirits remained high, “I feel like God is doing something in my life right now. I’m not really sure yet what that is, but I feel very close to Him right now and I feel His comfort. I pray one day I can be there for someone who is going through what I am.”

Just five days ago, Jacob seemed on the mend, posting a photo of himself after surgery, writing  “This story is far from done. I still have 8 more weeks until I’m even cleared to think about working out. Especially with how my heart function is still not where it should be. But today I feel good. I feel healthy. I feel thankful. I feel loved by so many. Being as vulnerable as I am in these photos really puts things into perspective. I have never felt closer to God than I do now. I feel like God has been showing me I am so much more than an athlete and good at CrossFit. I feel He is setting a path for me in all of this. I for sure know now I want to be a nurse after experiencing all the amazing nurses at APH. I am thankful this happened. I know it is making me into who God wants me to be.”

Jacob was excited to get back to CrossFit, sharing just two days before he passed away from complications after the surgery, that he missed CrossFit and was looking forward to his comeback. But that comeback never came. 

Cassidy Lance-McWherter, who owns CrossFit Waterside in Orlando, FL where Jacob trained, has started a GoFundMe for the family. In a letter addressed to Jacob, she wrote, “When we finally achieved your Goal – The CrossFit Games, I think you and I had the most fun ever that week. You showed nothing but grit and determination. You had the greatest spirit of any competitor on the floor. You worked your tail off and then stayed on the floor and cheered for the final competitor to finish. That day you made me the most proud. I still remember crying because of the person you had become on that competition floor. I wish I could have hugged you longer that day.”

A celebration of life  for Jacob Morris will be held Thursday, December 19 at Real Life Christian Church in Orlando, FL. The family asks for you to wear purple and to come prepared to write down your favorite memory, funny story, dad joke, or quote from Jacob’s favorite show, The Office.

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