Morgan runs into Ohio Track and CC HOF

BARNESVILLE – She is the unquestioned premier female distance runner in OVAC history.

Now Stephanie Morgan is being honored for her staggering prep achievements.

The former Barnesville High distance phenom is set to be inducted into the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame this Friday. The Hall of Fame banquet will be held at the Hilton at Easton in Columbus at 6:30 p.m.

“I am incredibly honored to be selected this year amongst so many great athletes and coaches that have brought so much to the history and tradition of Ohio cross country and track & field,” Morgan offered. “To have fellow athletes, coaches and fans remember some of your formative years is such a blessing, and also goes to show the passion and devotion people alone have for these sports history and representation of Ohio.”

Morgan spent her freshman year competing in Michigan after moving after eighth grade. She helped her Clarkston High cross country team to the state title while placing sixth individually. She proceeded to capture the 800 meters and 4×800 state crowns in track while finishing runnerup in the 1600.

Her family opted to move back to Barnesville after that season. Morgan proceeded to change the distance running landscape in the Ohio Valley, if not the entire Buckeye State.

The long-legged dandy authored cross country and track careers second to none. Morgan pocketed Ohio Division III cross country championships as a junior and senior.

Moreover, she won three consecutive 1600-meter state titles and two-straight 800-meter titles while winning state gold in the 3200 meters as a sophomore.

Her outstanding efforts earned her Ohio Gatorade Athlete of the Year honors in cross country in 2007 and 2008 and track and field in 2008 and 2009. The versatile performer owned personal bests of 55.6 at 400 meters, 2:07 at 800 meters, 4:39.8 at 1600 meters and 9:31 at 3200 meters.

“To be able to look back on my high school years, and know all the effort and hard work was really because of my love for the sport,” she added. “But also, striving to represent Ohio on a national level for middle distance running was a pleasure and honor during my high school years.”

Morgan’s running dominance attracted a host of D-I college programs. She selected one of the best in Baylor. After a successful frosh campaign with the Waco, Texas-based Bears, she opted to move back closer to home, transferring to the University of Illinois.

Morgan was a standout three-year performer for the Fighting Illini. She earned a host of Big Ten accolades while also qualifying for the national championships twice.

“When she was younger, Stephanie didn’t show the interest in running that her older sisters did. She went out for CC in seventh grade anyway, and easily won her first race, even though she took a wrong turn and ran an extra quarter mile,” said Barnesville cross country coach Mark Brown, who helped to hone Morgan’s immense skills. “She had both speed and endurance.”

Her senior year, she had the fastest high school mile time in the nation, according to USA Today.

“Both of her parents were All-American college runners, so she definitely had the genetics,” he added. “Stephanie was recruited by all the top college programs in the nation.”

In addition to her slew of prep state championships, Morgan won the mile in the prestigious Penn Relays while taking third in the 1500 meters in the Footlocker National Championships. She still holds the Ohio D-III 800- and 1600-meter records.

“After graduating from the University of Illinois, I went to graduate school for graphic design, and later moved out to Los Angeles,” Morgan stated. “I currently work at an advertising agency called 72andSunny as a graphic designer.”

HILLTOPPER EVENT

WEST LIBERTY University will hold a “Team Meet and Greet” fundraiser to support its softball and baseball teams on Feb. 2 at The Highlands. The dinner and silent auction event will feature former Major League Baseball pitcher and current Pittsburgh Pirates broadcaster Steve Blass.

“Proceeds from this event will go toward the funding of the new Belmont Savings Bank Indoor Practice Facility which opens soon,” said WLU athletic director Lynn Ullom.

The insulated indoor practice facility measures 120 x 120 feet in size and includes a turf field. It is located near Beta Hall and will be open to all athletic teams for training in all seasons, according to Ullom.

Blass was the winning pitcher for the Pirates in Game 7 of the 1971 World Series and was runner-up to teammate Roberto Clemente in the voting for World Series MVP. A member of the 1972 National League All-Star Team, Blass compiled a 103-76 record during his 10-year career with the Pirates.

The “Team Meet and Greet” dinner takes place at the Highlands Event Center and begins with a 6 p.m. happy hour, followed by a dinner. A cash lottery and silent auction also are planned. The price for dinner is $40.

For more information or to purchase tickets, contact head baseball coach Eric Burkle at 304-336-8941 (eburkle@westliberty.edu) or head softball coach Herb Minch at 304-336-8476 (minchhp@westliberty.edu).

BUBBA’S BITS

NEW WVU head football coach Neal Brown played his last football game at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling. After he completed his college eligibility at UMass, Brown joined the Lexington (Ky.) Horsemen of the Indoor Football League and the wide receiver played against the Ohio Valley Greyhounds before joining the UMass coaching staff.

THE SUPER BOWL foes will be determined today. I picked New Orleans to make the Super Bowl way back in August. So I am sticking with the Saints to make full use of their dome field advantage to beat the Rams. The AFC matchup is more intriguing. It is probably non-sensical to pick against Tom Brady but I like the Chiefs at home.

FORMER WHEELING Park all-state quarterback Cross Wilkinson has been red-shirted by the University of Toledo. Wilkinson recently concluded his frosh campaign with the Rockets. Wilkinson quarterbacked Park to its only state grid title during his sophomore season.

BETHANY COLLEGE head football coach Bill Garvey served as an assistant coach for the Under-16 U.S National Team in the International Bowl in Arlington, Texas. The Under-16 U.S National team faced team Mexico on Friday at AT&T Stadium. The team consisted of some of the best high school players worldwide. Garvey led Bethany this fall to its first five-win season since 2015. The Bison also finished above .500 in the conference for the first time since 2014 (5-3).

MEADOWBROOK HIGH is in the market for a new head football coach. Jeff Twiddy is leaving the Colts after four years to take the job at Louisville High in Stark County.

LUKAS ISALY is enjoying a fine freshman basketball season for nationally ranked Marietta College. The former River High all-Ohioan is averaging 9.5 points a game for the 14-2 Pioneers. The dynamic guard is also producing 2.1 assists per game. He has started all 16 games. Teammate Anthony Wallace, a former Linsly School standout, is Marietta’s second leading scorer, averaging 11.1 ppg.

THE PRO golf tour heats up this week as Tiger Woods will make his 2019 debut in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. He has won the Farmers Insurance Open seven times. I look for Tiger to be the dominant golfer in the game this year, winning a major or two along the way.

FORMER MARTINS Ferry distance running and swimming standout Jamie Fogle has been named to the Mountain East Conference All-Academic Team. Fogle is a member of the West Liberty University cross country squad. She is a Hilltopper frosh.

THE UNIVERSITY of North Alabama women’s basketball team is a sparkling 12-2 this season. The Lions are coached by former Bellaire High and West Liberty hoop standout Missy Tiber.

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