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Dual-Sport Morel Hurdles His Way Over School Record

Morel looks to make a move after catching a pass in Valley City, ND. (Photo via Kristine Kingland)

By Zach Throne

Junior Zach Morel has spent the last six months proving to Waldorf University and NAIA athletics just how versatile of an athlete he is.

The San Diego native broke his week-long school record in the 60-meter hurdles last weekend for a time of 8.44 seconds. He needs to cut off only 0.08 seconds to qualify for the NAIA National Indoor Meet.

Morel’s specialty is anything that involves leaping. On a typical meet, he will compete in the 60-meter hurdles, long jump, pole vault and high jump.

He also has competed in the heptathlon, which consists of seven events: the 60-meter dash, shot put, long jump, high jump, 60-meter hurdles, pole vault and 1,000-meter run. He sits 15th in the nation for this event, which would qualify for the national meet if his place holds.

Morel, who plays football and competes in track at Waldorf, caught many eyes for the first time by leaping in an October football game against Valley City State.

He caught a pass in the flat, turned up field, juked a defender and then leaped over another Viking defender to cap off the stellar play.

“It was the most hype play of the season for us,” says football and track teammate Jake Conlon, “He had nowhere to go around the defender, so he just jumped over him.”

That was his first game getting legitimate playing time in the Waldorf receiving core. He continued receiving starter time and passes the rest of the season for the Warriors, totaling 24 catches for 490 yards and four touchdowns.

The dual-sport athlete also has a dual-starting role on the football team: wide receiver and punter. He earned NSAA Special Teams Player of the Week twice for the Warriors this past season.

Morel participated in five sports all four years of high school: football, track, lacrosse, ice hockey and roller hockey.

His superb athleticism is no coincidence, though, as his family is filled with exceptional athletes in various sports.

His dad played running back in the NFL for five years with the Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins before injuries derailed his career. He bounced back, though, as he still competes in bodybuilding professionally.

Morel’s mom played two sports (basketball and volleyball) at Eastern Illinois. She was inducted into the Eastern Illinois Athletic Hall of Fame for her career alongside NFL quarterbacks Tony Romo and Jimmy Garoppolo. She later played professional beach volleyball and professional women’s football.

His grandpa on his mom’s side played football at Purdue University, and his grandpa on his dad’s side was a state champion in the 400-meter dash for three years.

His older brother, who has Williams Syndrome, was the first high school student with a disability to play hockey in the state of California.

It’s easy to realize how Zach is so athletically-gifted given his genes. Zach remembers, “My mom has told me, ‘You’re like a race horse; you were bred to be a great athlete.'”

Despite his genetic prowess, Morel has had to put in tremendous effort for his success in sports.

“He gives his all everyday during every drill at practice,” says Conlon, ” It’s no accident he had a great second half of the season in football and great start to the track season. He’s an awesome friend to be on two teams with.”

Morel looks to improve his 60-meter hurdles time to earn a trip to NAIA Nationals at the NSAA Indoor Championships on Saturday, Feb. 22 at South Dakota State in Brookings, SD.