Thursday, November 29, 2012

Morton Commits to Dartmouth

She is the preseason Division II girls basketball Player of the Year. She is ranked as one of the top 10 javelin throwers in the entire country. She has a 4.2 GPA and has been voted Class President all four years. And now Lebanon High senior Moriah Morton has committed to Dartmouth College, where she will throw the javelin for the track team and attempt to walk-on to the women's basketball team.

"I applied Early Decision to Dartmouth, and I received my 'likely' letter that athletes receive" Morton told the NH Notebook. "It says that as long as I maintain my academic and personal records reflected in the application, I will be sent an official acceptance letter in December."

Dartmouth is a member of the Ivy League, which is considered to be the most prestigious academic conference in the nation. For athletics it is a Division I league, but does not give athletic scholarships. Dartmouth is located in Hanover, NH which is the next town over from Morton's hometown of Lebanon.

"It almost shocked me when I decided to commit to Dartmouth, because for years I refused to go there" said Morton. "Both my parents went there, and ever since I was little they had been trying to persuade me to go to Dartmouth. At the beginning of my college search I decided I wanted to go somewhere in a city and far away; turns out I couldn't have chosen anywhere more opposite than that. I looked at every Ivy League, Tufts, Washington University in St. Louis, UChicago, and Bucknell. In the end it came down to Dartmouth and Bucknell. Bucknell offered me a spot on their basketball team, and after visiting the school I liked it a lot. I liked the coaches and the team, the campus, and how far away it was from home. However a week later I went on a track official-visit to Dartmouth (rather grudgingly for I still refused to go there, somehow my parents convinced me to go). and

To say that Morton's official visit to Dartmouth went well would be an understatement.

"It completely changed my idea about the school" Morton said. "Everything about the school was really interesting to me. Dartmouth just opened a brand new Arts building, and since I plan on studying Art, that enticed me a lot. The atmosphere on the campus was exactly what I was looking for — school spirited and genuine. I instantly felt at home, not because I live 15 minutes away, but because the students and the atmosphere made me feel like this was the school that I needed to go to. Before I went, I was so wary because of how close the school is to my house. I walk through Hanover multiple times a week, but after living the college life for two days with my host, I got to see so much of the campus that I had never even seen before! I was amazed at how separated the students' lives were from the community's.

Basketball would also play a role in her college decision.

"I loved Dartmouth, but knew it was possible that I would not be able to play basketball there" Morton lamented. "My decision was between going to Bucknell and playing basketball, or going to Dartmouth and potentially not play basketball. Basketball has been such a huge part of my high school experience, and I have spent thousands of hours practicing, that at first it was really hard for me to imagine not playing basketball after this year. However, the more I thought about it and talked to my parents, the more I realized that my basketball career could be 4 more years, while my real career will last me my whole life. Dartmouth now has a much more expansive and state of the art, art department, so I knew I needed to pursue the college that would prepare me best for a future career."

Although Morton is more widely known for her abilities on the basketball court, but she is even better at track and field.

"I started throwing javelin in 6th grade when I went to a track camp at our high school" explained Morton. "Our track coach Andrew Gamble is a pro at recruiting athletes and finding an event that they could excel in, so as soon as he saw me try javelin for the first time he convinced me that I could be really good one day. Ever since then I have been throwing javelin in the spring; even in junior high I got to practice with the high school team. Javelin is only a high school event, but during my junior high years Coach Gamble convinced me to go to Junior Olympics meets where I could compete. After qualifying for Nationals at the Junior Olympics meet, I think I realized this was something I could have a future in. My current best throw is 137'1" which I threw at a meet in April. I hold the school record and the Division II record, but I am looking to go for the State Record this year that is 149'9". Now I am ranked in the top 10 javelin throwers in the nation for the Class of 2013. Part of my javelin success has come from the great track coaches that I have had, and playing basketball has also helped improve my speed and strength. I also attribute much of my success the great genetics God has given me; my dad was a professional football player and my mom was a great long distance runner so I definitely got blessed with those genes."

Morton has worked extremely hard to become one of the top javelin throwers in the country, but has also received some excellent coaching.

"Moriah Morton is one of the best athletes I've ever had the opportunity to coach" said Andrew Gamble, who is the head track and field coach at Lebanon. "She has pure physical strength, decent speed and phenomenal endurance. She is also very smart and had become a student of the game. She is the uncanny ability to break down her own technique and find ways to improve. Dartmouth will provide a great environment for her to succeed athletically and academically. Michelle Clayton, the Dartmouth throwing coach, should be able to help Moriah improve to be one of the best throwers in the Ivy League. If it were not for Dan Mead, our javelin and pole vaulting coach at Lebanon, Moriah would not have developed as far and as fast as she had in high school."

Anytime you're talking about a track & field athlete who is in the top 10 in the country for a certain event there is always the possibility of qualifying for the Olympics.

"I don't think I will ever be great enough to compete in the Olympics" said Morton, whose father Craig was a record-setting wide receiver at Dartmouth and went on to play professional football in Europe. "However, I do want to compete in the NCAA Championships one day, something that the Dartmouth coaches think is definitely feasible."

The javelin isn't the only track event that Morton has excelled in.

"I also run distance (800 and 1600) in track, mostly to stay in shape for basketball, but I ran in the 4 x 800 team at states that placed 2nd" said Morton. "The Dartmouth coaches said I could try another event if I want to, but right now I am fairly certain I will only be throwing javelin."

While Morton has a spot reserved for her on the Dartmouth track & field team, that is not the case for basketball. With that being said, she is a 5-foot-8 guard who is the best defender in NH high school basketball. She's fast, rebounds extremely well and is a tough slasher.

"I want to play basketball at Dartmouth" said Morton. "The track coaches are supportive of me trying to do both sports, so right now it's a matter of Coach Wielgus letting me on the basketball team. In the past she has not allowed walk-ons, but I am hoping/trying to be an exception. There are a lot of coaches in the area and just coaches that have seen me play that have said they would love to speak on my behalf to Coach Wielgus to try to get me on the team."

Now of course there are no athletic scholarships for Ivy League schools, so technically everyone is a walk-on for teams at Dartmouth. But there is still a difference between walk-ons and 'recruited walk-ons'.

"By walk-ons Coach Wielgus means people they don't recruit" Morton explained. "Every year they recruit a certain number of freshmen, just like I have been recruited for track at Dartmouth. Most colleges have walk-on tryouts at the beginning of every school year to make sure they did not miss any talent that is already at their school, but Coach Wielgus never does this."

The Big Green women's basketball team went 6-22 during the 2011-2012 season, and is 1-4 so far this season. They are coached by Chris Wielgus, who is in her 28th season at the helm.

"I think Moriah could be the best all around player I have ever coached in the last 25 years" said Lebanon High head coach Tim Kehoe. "Having said that she's an even better person! The thing that always stands out for me is her incredible positive energy. She is hard working and so positive to her teammates. As far as a player in college goes I will tell any head coach this - there isn't a kid on your team that will out work her or be as positive an influence on others. This kid is special! I first started coaching Moriah in the 4th grade and I have been coaching her through my camps, AAU, and high school ever since. She could have played at Bucknell, but both her parents went to Dartmouth and she was recruited by the track coach and told to just come and visit it. She didn't give it a chance before because she thought it was too close but she fell in love with it. I would love Moriah to play basketball in college but the most important thing for any high school kid to realize it's about finding the right school that fits them academically and socially first. I think Mo has done that. I hope she does get the walk-on, because I feel she could make an impact on their team."

Coach Kehoe hit the nail on the head with regards to Morton's positive attitude. In my six years covering high school sports I have never seen an athlete exhibit a better attitude or better sportsmanship. No matter what may have just happened on the court, no matter what the score might be, she is always smiling, cheering on her teammates and high-fiving them. She picks her teammates up when they fall down, pats them on the back, she compliments them on good plays, cheers them up after mistakes. Heck, she even does all of that for players on the other team! She's a nice, polite, intelligent kid. Morton is a tremendously hard worker - on the court, on the field and in the classroom.

"It is an honor to go to Dartmouth, because it rewards all the hard work I have done in the classroom throughout these high school years, something that I think is increasingly undervalued in student-athletes" Morton concluded. "I grew up home-schooled, so I attribute a lot my academic success and drive to my mom teaching my siblings and I when we were younger. My parents always taught us to honor God and work our hardest in everything we do, whether that be school, sports, art, music, or whatever we choose. I have worked really hard to earn my 4.2 GPA, and that has gotten me ranked in the top 10 people in my class. I am part of the National Honor Society, and received the George Eastman Young Leaders Award, and the LHS Art Award. As well as playing basketball, track and soccer for 2 years, I volunteer with Youth in Action in our community, sing and volunteer in our church, work as the Sports Editor for our school newspaper, and I have been voted Class President all 4 years. I also am part of the Art Club; I love art and painting and plan to study Art at Dartmouth."

Congratulations to Moriah, and best of luck to her at Dartmouth!

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