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ALL-AREA TRACK: Both Cline, Morton ready to compete at next level
At first glance, Joe Cline and Meshala Morton don’t appear to have much in common.
Cline is a 6-foot-6, 315-pound former standout thrower for the Brooke Point track and field team. Morton is 5-foot-2 and 110 pounds, and she was a blur of a sprinter for Mountain View.
But The Free Lance–Star boys and girls outdoor track and field athletes of the year each used breakthrough senior seasons to earn Division I scholarships.
And the most rewarding part for them is they believe their best is yet to come.
“It’s a hard feeling to describe because winning a state title is a good feeling,” Cline said of his career’s upward trend. “But to realize I have four or five years to increase that in college is like starting all over again. It’s an interesting feeling.”
Cline captured Clemson University’s attention when he won the Group 5A state championship in the shot put at the end of the indoor season. He followed it up with a state title in the same event during the outdoor campaign, as well as a second-place finish in the discus.
He signed a national letter of intent with Clemson in May. He’ll be coached by former Olympian thrower Robert Weir of Great Britain.
Weir said Cline is “a very exciting prospect with the size and tools to be a good college thrower.”
“We believe we’re getting a guy that the potential and the upside is tremendous,” Weir said. “We believe he’s someone that can contribute and help the program. Whether he helps us next year or the year after, we don’t know, but we’re certainly willing to find out and so is he.”
Maurice Pierce, who is Hampton University’s director of cross country and track and field, believes Morton’s impact will be felt immediately.
Morton wasn’t on Pierce’s radar until he was told by a friend at Heritage High School in Newport News to check her out.
So Pierce attended the 5A indoor meet in February. He was impressed when Morton blazed her way to her first-ever state championship in the 55 meters and he offered her a full scholarship.
Morton went on to capture the 100 and 200 this past outdoor season, and anchor the state runner-up 400 relay team. She signed with the Pirates in May.
“She’s an exceptional talent,” Pierce said. “I think her best years are in front of her. To me, personally I think she’s the best sprinter in the state. She was under the radar because she hadn’t run extremely fast early like some of the other girls.”
That may be what intrigues Pierce most about Morton. Her times steadily dropped this past season, and she doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. Morton said that’s because of the way Mountain View coach Dave Davis handled her workload.
“I think a lot of coaches have their sprinters lifting and doing rigorous workouts,” Morton said. “I’ve never done that. I think once I’m exposed to lifting and other coaching I might peak then.”
Morton established personal-bests in the 100 (11.89 seconds) and 200 (24.49) to win state titles. She also established a personal best in the 400 (56.76) to win the Conference 15 championship in that event.
“If you look at her performances she got better and better and better,” Pierce said. “So her best years are in front of her. She’s going to do extremely well. I think she’s going to have a breakout year her freshman year. As soon as she gets here she’s going to run extremely fast.”
Morton won’t enroll in Hampton until the end of August. Cline enrolled in summer school classes at Clemson last week and is already getting his first taste of college workouts.
“The warm-up [exercises] here is a little different than running two laps and stretching,” Cline said. “The warm-up is like a hard-core workout.”
Cline has yet to train under Weir, but he said he’s looking forward to it. Weir competed with Great Britain in the 1984, ’96 and 2000 Olympics. Weir said he prefers to work with athletes at their pace rather than attempt to teach what made him successful.
Pierce wasn’t an Olympian, but he’s coached four, including Francena McCorory, who competed for the United States in the 400 in the London Olympics in 2012 and won a gold medal as a member of the 1,600 relay team.
Hampton has won 24 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championships in cross country and track and field under Pierce. He believes Morton has the ability to compete in the 100, 200 or 400, but may find her niche in the shorter distances.
“I think at the end of the day,” Pierce said, “she could probably be one of our top 100-meter sprinters to come through here.”
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526
This week, The Free Lance–Star unveils its spring All-Area high school sports team. Here is the schedule:
TODAY: Track and field
Saturday: Girls soccer
Sunday: Boys soccer