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Meet the Clingers — BYU sports’ latest power couple

Athletic duo draw upon their faith while supporting each other’s athletic pursuits.

By Jason Swensen

29 Dec 2022

BYU All-American runner Casey Clinger competes at an NCAA meet in 2021. (Courtesy: BYU Photo)

PROVO — Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Blake and Ryan. Will and Jada. Tom and Gisele (whoops, cancel that.) Mila and Ashton.

Pop culture loves its power couples — and so does BYU sports. The Church-sponsored school has played matchmaker for an impressive, growing list of Cougar athletes who have cemented their union at the marriage altar.

To wit: BYU basketball star Tyler Haws and Cougar gymnast Summer Raymond. Haws’ college teammate and former NBA player Kyle Collinsworth and All-America runner Shea Martinez. NFL veteran Bronson Kaufusi and former BYU soccer goalkeeper Hilary Smith. Former Cougar football receiving star Mitch Matthews and dual-sport athlete Madie Lyons.

Now add Casey and Morgan to the Cougar sports power couple list.

BYU All-American/conference champion distance runner Casey Clinger and volleyball’s Morgan Bower tied the knot last year in the Meridian Idaho Temple. While the two appreciate the impressive roster of BYU athletes/spouses, they never intended to be included in that list.

Casey and Morgan’s initial yet unexpected encounter happened, aptly, in a BYU weight room during their team workouts.

“She was squatting about twice as much as I was,” said Casey, laughing.

A fearless competitor on the cross-country course and track, Casey admitted to being a bit of a chicken when it came to introducing himself to the volleyball player.

“But after a few weeks of mustering up the courage, I ran into Morgan in the elevator of the BYU student athlete building and we started chatting,” he said. 

Soon they were dating and, eventually, became a couple and married in July of 2021.

Obviously the Clingers compete in different sports. One is a Utah boy. The other, an Idaho girl. Morgan is a night owl. Casey can hit the sack at dusk. But they both know well the ups and downs that come with being a D1 athlete. They share one another’s victories and set-backs.

“To be honest, Casey probably supports me the most,” said Morgan, who recently finished her BYU playing career. "Sometimes I would come home upset about a game or something, and I wanted to talk about things. He was always very supportive and selfless.”

Casey relies equally upon his wife.

 “Morgan’s the perfect example of hard work and dedication and I just try to be like her,” he said. “She helps me stay committed and on track. She's traveled across the country several times to come watch a 15-minute race.”


Generations of Bowers in Cougar blue


It sounds silly to say someone was born to play for the Cougars. But simply saying Morgan comes from a “BYU family” would be a silly understatement. She hails from a long and still growing line of Cougars. 

Her father, Danny, and an uncle, Rickey, played basketball at BYU. Her mother, Caroline, was an outside hitter on the BYU volleyball team in the late 1990s and was pregnant with Morgan during one NCAA tournament run.  Meanwhile, her grandfather and an uncle played football at BYU.

Morgan was one of three Bower girls on the 2022 BYU volleyball team. Sisters Whitney and Eden play setter and outside hitter, respectively. Still another Bower sister, Alex, has signed to play volleyball for the Cougars.

Growing up in Nampa, Idaho, as one of seven sport-loving sisters “was a lot of fun,” she said. “We played volleyball and soccer with and against each other…. We were always competing with each other, but with a lot of love.”

Morgan and her sisters got to know many of the Cougar coaches and players during youth volleyball camps. Those relationships, she said, “definitely made me want to be part of that program.”

Morgan recently finished her BYU career on a Cougar squad that was a West Coast Conference finalist and qualified for the NCAA Tournament.

The 2022 season was like no other for BYU’s women's volleyball team. The team found itself thrust in an uneasy national spotlight following their home game versus Duke. 

Morgan said the team and coaches came together “supporting each other as we went through tough times.”


A hometown harrier


Like Morgan, Casey grew with athletic siblings in Pleasant Grove, Utah.

The lanky Clinger boys were naturally drawn to vertically-inclined sports such as basketball and volleyball rather than distance running. Still, young Casey was intrigued whenever athletes from the storied American Fork High cross country team loped past the Clinger home on their training runs. He ran his first 5-kilometer race when he was 12. Many more followed. Casey quickly discovered he could run fast and far. 

When he enrolled at American Fork HS, he knew distance running was his sport.

By the time he graduated from high school, he had claimed eight state championships and was the 2016 Gatorade Cross Country National Athlete of the Year.

As an elite recruit, Casey had his choice of many elite college programs. But like Morgan, his relationship with the BYU coaches and athletes persuaded him to be a Cougar. He competed at BYU for the fall cross country season of his freshman year before answering a mission call to Japan. 

Amid the rigors of daily missionary service, Casey was able maintain a fitness baseline. 

“Missionaries dreaded being my companion because it meant they would have to go out early and run,” he said, laughing. “But I made some great friends on my mission. Some of my companions even learned to love running — or at least learned to love biking next to me.”

Missionary work in Japan was challenging. Finding people to teach was challenging. 

 “Learning to trust the process and be ‘all in’ as a missionary helped me to work my hard and have faith that God's plan was the right plan for me,” he said.

Those lessons, he added, “stuck with me as a runner here at BYU.”

After claiming the 2022 West Coast Conference cross country title, Casey secured his fourth career All-American honor recently by finishing seventh in the 2022 NCAA Cross Country Championships in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He is just the second BYU athlete with four All-American honors, joining his former teammate and BYU legend Conner Mantz. 

Because of COVID allowances, Casey has one more year of college eligibility.


A “BYU power couple" aligned by gospel-aligned goals


Competing at the highest level of college sports is an apt metaphor for life outside athletics: There are wins. There are losses.

But Casey and Morgan say their shared gospel testimony navigates them through easy and rough waters.

“Our relationship is strong because we support each other through  good times and bad times,” said Morgan. “That really strengthens our testimony of the Church and our faith. We trust that God knows what's best for both of us.

“As long as we have Christ as the center of our home we will succeed in life.”

The gospel, added Casey, allows the young couple to “trust in the process” and each other.

“It's all about having faith in Jesus Christ. He can help us through anything. No matter the trial, He can help us. He knows us.”

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Morgan Bower Clinger serves the ball during BYU women’s volleyball game in 2021. She is one of several family members to have competed for the Cougars. (Courtesy: BYU Photo)

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