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ALL-AREA GIRLS WINTER TRACK: Morton, Hutt fleet in 55

Throughout the first three years of Meshala Morton’s high school track and field career, she was never at ease.

Whenever the Mountain View senior didn’t establish a new personal best she’d think she was “terrible,” and hardly talked to anyone.

But before her senior season, Morton realized why she was so hard on herself.

She lost her mother to breast cancer when she was 2 years old and she was desperate to prove to her father and other family members that she could be a successful athlete.

“Going into my senior year, I figured out I don’t need to push myself too hard to the point I’m so upset,” Morton said. “I realized it is OK not to PR every time. It’s OK not to get first place. As long as you have fun, you should be happy with the results.”

Morton was plenty happy with her performance during the indoor season. She captured the Group 5A state championship in the 55-meter dash last month, and she earned Free Lance–Star girls track and field athlete of the year.

Mountain View coach Dave Davis said he noticed Morton’s understanding of the sport increased this season, and it paid off as she recorded the fastest 55 time across all five Virginia High School League classifications (1A and 2A are combined) to win her first state title.

“I think she’s more mature now, and she seems more relaxed,” said her father, Kenneth Morton, who ran track in high school. “The fact that she has accomplished two of her goals—a sub-7 seconds in the 55 and a sub-12 in the 100—I noticed a big glow in her face. After that, she has not been the same little girl.”

Despite her petite frame, Meshala has been forced to grow up faster than many other teenagers. Kenneth Morton has raised her as a single father. Her mother, Emma Lee Morton, died at age 44 when the family lived in Washington.

Meshala has little recollection of her mother, with whom she shares a middle name. Her loss has been a source of pain and inspiration, but Kenneth Morton said she’s finally come to grips with it.

“I think when she was coming of age and she realized what happened, it was devastating,” he said. “There were times she would ask, ‘How come I don’t have a mommy? When will I get a new mommy?’

“I tried to explain to her it’s not that easy. She used to look at her pictures and cry, but now she’ll look and that’s about it. It doesn’t faze her like it used to.”

Kenneth Morton said he never remarried because it would’ve been challenging to find someone to fill the void in his daughter’s life. So he was left with the daily challenges of raising a daughter alone.

He had to learn how to braid her hair and “color-coordinate” her clothes. And the horseplay couldn’t be as rough as if he had a son.

Meshala said their relationship has gotten stronger this year because she’s realized the sacrifices he’s made. She said she now wants to remain in Virginia for college so she can be closer to him.

“I guess it was probably me growing up and figuring some stuff out,” she said. “I just kind of finally realized this person has been there for me the entire time, and I’m so grateful for that.”

Meshala is being recruited by Division I programs Hampton University, North Carolina A&T and Virginia Commonwealth.

Her father said it’s “beautiful” that she wants to remain in state but he prefers she does what’s best for her future.

He said he admires Meshala because she’s never been defiant toward him. He said she’s “just the sweetest girl” and she still looks to him for guidance.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of mood I’m in or if I had a bad day, all I have to do is see that little girl and it all goes away,” Kenneth Morton said. “It brings me pure joy to know the challenges we’ve faced and the hurdles we’ve overcome together. It makes it all worthwhile.”


Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526




This week, The Free Lance–Star unveils its winter high school All-Area teams.

Yesterday: Gymnastics

TODAY: Indoor track

Thursday: Wrestling

Friday: Swimming

Saturday: Girls basketball

Sunday: Boys basketball