HOPSPTS-07-14-21 GIRLS TRACK AOY-PHOTO1

University Heights Academy’s Evelyn Morales is the 2021 Kentucky New Era girls track and field Athlete of the Year.

When she joined the University Heights Academy track and field team, Evelyn Morales was planning on using it as a tool to improve on the volleyball court.

But it turned into much more for the now-former Lady Blazer.

While it did help her improve in her main sport on the volleyball court, she develops a special relationship with the sport.

“I started running track because Carter (Hendricks) talked me into it,” she said. “He told me, ‘You’re going to be my next high jumper.’ That made me think, ‘That would help me in volleyball.’ So I began running.

Something about the sport made me stick with it and it allowed me to push my body to its limits it helped out.”

With a pair of second-place finishes at the Class-A state meet in the final meet of her career, capping off her career as a member of the UHA track team, Morales has been named the 2021 Planter’s Bank Kentucky New Era girls’ track and field Athlete of the Year.

Her 2021 preparation began in 2020 after the spring season was canceled due to COVID-19.

She was dead set on closing her career in a strong way, and it began by going full speed ahead in the hurdle events.

“I really wanted to focus on not cutting corners and doing every workout to the fullest,” Morales said. “Just doing everything my track coach tells me and follow all of the workouts. Really I just tried to focus on hurdles. I did form and I did the technique.

“My coach told me I needed to either focus on 100 hurdles and high jump and I took a chance on hurdles and that seemed to really pay off this season.”

Breaking away from the high jump, the event she previously decided to join track for, wasn’t an easy decision.

But she figuratively — and literally, took it in stride.

“I really enjoy the excitement of the race,” she said. “Any sprinter can just hop on a track and run as fast as they can. In hurdles, you have to have certain techniques and it takes a special runner to be able to put the mental and physical together with that. I think with my rankings, I had a pretty good shot at placing well in the 100 hurdles.”

After deciding to go that route, Morales went to work and she started seeing improvements.

“When I started putting the three-step turnover into the 100 hurdles is when we started to see the most progress,” she said. “In the 300, just raw, natural speed on top of the form I was getting in the 100 helped me as well.”

She also used her participation in the 4x200 and 4x400-meter relays as a way to better prepare her for her individual races.

“I really think the longer distance the 400 brings to the table, it really helps with stamina in the 300,” Morales said. “Also, running in the 4x200-meter relay before the 300 gets my legs charged up so I’m able to run a little bit faster.”

When it all came to a head at the state meet, Morales put all of her work on the table and came away with a pair of second-place finishes.

To see her work for the past year pay off and get to experience not one, but two top-three finishes in the state meet were moments she’ll never forget.

“My initial thought was glory be to God,” Morales said. “Coming from a small town and going out and running the race and doing what I need to do — it’s an amazing experience to even have that honor to finish in the top three. Glory to God and thanks to all my coaches that have trained me in the past.”

After originally joining to better herself on the volleyball court, she grew to love the sport of track and field and believes her experience should serve as an example of what track can do for you not just physically, but mentally as well.

“I’m just so thankful for the community I’ve made,” she said. “I’ve made so many friends running track. I’d recommend track to any athlete. It will make you mentally tougher, it will make you physically stronger and if you have another sport, I would definitely suggest that because it will make you better in that sport. I’ve seen that in the way I play volleyball. I’m quicker and more agile than I used to be.”

BOX THIS

2021 girls’ track and field All-KNE team

Evelyn Morales — UHA

Autumn Bell — Christian County

Allison Wood — Hopkinsville

Lori Moyd — Hopkinsville

Piper Hancock — UHA

DeDe Barbee — Trigg County

Audrey Grise — UHA

Riley Brame — Trigg County

Savannah Ziegler — Fort Campbell

Aliviah Acree — UHA

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