MISSOULA, Mont. - With 2013 officially in the books, we finished our NBC Montana countdown with the very top sports performance from the past year.
After already winning state titles and Gatorade Runner of the Year honors twice during her first two years of high school, all eyes were on Bigfork's Makena Morley entering just her junior season of cross country.
And Morley did not disappoint even the highest of expectations, starting with her performance at Missoula's Mountain West Classic in late September. Morley not only won the large regional meet for a third straight year with a time of 16:43, but she broke Zoe Nelson's course record by 17 seconds. We caught up with Morley the following week in Bigfork to ask her about the big win:
"I'm just really proud of myself for doing that because you never know who's going to come from Idaho and Washington. But I came across the finish line and I knew the record was 17-flat so I was so happy and I knew I'd pushed myself really hard I've trained really well this season so I was really happy to finally have broken that record."
One month later it was time for Morley to turn more heads on the same course in Missoula where the state meet was held. She not only won her third straight Class ‘B' title that day, but she finished in 16:35 to shatter the previous all-class record for the state of Montana by 15 seconds. That record was also previously held by former Flathead High runner Zoe Nelson. After the performance Morley said the race went as well as she could have hoped:
"You know for this one I've really worked and had a lot better training this year and I was just really hoping to maybe break the state record and at least have fun and be relaxed and that definitely worked out. It's my junior year, my third one so hopefully I can come out and do it again next year for four."
But winning state wasn't even close to the end for Morley's season. For the third straight year she clinched a spot to run in the Footlocker Western Regional Championships. Morley not only placed top-10 at regionals for a third straight year, but she won the regional event finishing 20 seconds better than second place.
One week later it was time for one final competition as Morley competed in the Footlocker National championship race for the third year in a row. Morley set a new personal best and earned all American honors by finishing 8th in the country, although even that was still a small let down for the 5-foot-4 runner with national title aspirations.
"I mean I'm a little bit disappointed obviously because I went in there to go win it but I'm happy that I did the best I could that day and that's all you can ask for really."