McDERMOTT — For Gabe Morrell, simply going out and running hasn’t always come easy for him at Northwest High School.
But finally, fully healthy —and hopefully he can remain that way —Morrell is ready to run at the next level, which will actually be on the Division III circuit and at Marietta College.
That’s because the Mohawk senior standout, in his recent signing ceremony inside the Northwest High School gymnasium, officially announced his intention to run for the Pioneers —his mother Melissa Adams’ alma mater.
In addition to his mother, a few friends and fellow Mohawk distance runners, Morrell was flanked by his coaches —Adam Schroeder, Dave Frantz and Chris Enz.
Morrell said he is running both cross country and track at Marietta —a member of the Ohio Athletic Conference and NCAA Division III.
He became the second Mohawk runner in a matter of two weeks to declare where he was furthering his college career —with the highly-touted and decorated Landen Smith deciding upon Shawnee State.
But Marietta made sense to Morrell, who will run for head coach of both programs Jason Davis and assistant coach Caitlin Thomas.
He can also compete in hurdles races, as he finished as the 300m runner-up behind teammate Jay Jenkins at last Thursday’s Southern Ohio Conference meet — held on the home track at Roy Rogers Field.
He also said Xavier University was a possibility, but he had much more contact with the Pioneer program and coaches.
“Everything with Marietta worked out the best. I talked to their coaches a lot and did a visit with them, and my mother and uncle had gone there. So I had ties there already. Everything just fit into place,” said Morrell. “Marietta really showed an interest, and I knew if I went there, I would be part of a good team and have good support. I feel like I will really do well there.”
It’s also back to a beginning of sorts, as Morrell was one of Schroeder’s charter cross country runners — when the former Shawnee State standout started the program back up at Northwest in 2015.
Morrell was a seventh grader then and initially came out to run, but then quit combined with suffering a concussion—as Schroeder said he paid him a visit to change his mind.
The rest, as they say, is history.
“Gabe was actually the first kid that joined the cross country team in seventh grade. We started the program back up, so he has been with me the longest. He has been one of my runners since day one. He actually quit, and I had to go over to school and talk him back into running, and the rest has been history for him here at Northwest,” said the coach.
Speaking of history, the Mohawks made that by qualifying for the state cross country meet as team in his junior season.
And they needed Morrell, in the Division II regional race on a rainy day and muddy course at Pickerington North High School, to finish the 5K and place where he did in order to advance.
All, mind you, with a fractured pelvis he suffered during that dramatic and epic run.
Schroeder described it as “heroic”.
“The muscle tensed up and ended up snapping off part of the bone. It tightened up about a mile left, then the last 30 meters it just popped,” Morrell recalled. “It was a horrible nasty day to run, but I had so much adrenaline and I finished the race. Afterwards, we knew something was up for sure.”
The next year, his senior season, Morrell missed a month with a partially torn Achilles’ tendon —but came back to place eighth out of 62 runners in the SOC meet at Eastern, as he even set a personal-best 17 minutes and 41 seconds.
“In cross country, it seemed like every year when he would get rolling, he would have so many freak injuries. I don’t think Gabe ever reached his fullest potential in cross country here because of that,” said Schroeder.
But on the track, Schroeder said, “he is a different animal.”
In indoor track and field, he has twice been part of the Mohawks’ state qualifying and all-Ohio 4x800m relay units, as this year’s foursome — which also included junior Kailan Marshall and fellow seniors Smith and Josh Shope — was the Division II runner-up in eight minutes and seven seconds.
“We’ve been together ever since my freshman year and it’s a great group of guys. We’ve went from being mediocre to now we’re top tier for this area. We’ve been to the state meet twice and setting school records. It’s crazy to think how much talent we have here. Just looking at Landen (Smith), Josh (Shope) and Kailan (Marshall), three guys ahead of me that if they weren’t here, I could be the top guy. I could be the top kid at any other school,” said Morrell. “But with those three, it’s great because it pushes us to be that top 4x800m, it pushes me in practice, and as a team it really puts us ahead a lot.”
Indeed it does, indoor OR outdoor.
Morrell, Smith and Shope also advanced twice (2018 and 2019) in the 4x800m to the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s outdoor state championship meet inside Ohio State University’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, as his sophomore season saw that trio —along with Chase McClay —capture seventh place and all-Ohio accolades in 8:04.
“When he ran the 4x800m his freshman year, we were dead last at the state meet, and they were putting out the hurdles (for next event) when they finished. They knew the next year (2019) was going to be theirs,” said Schroeder.
Unfortunately, the OHSAA cancelled the 2020 season because of the coronavirus threat.
Indeed, with injuries and circumstances beyond Morrell’s control, running hasn’t always come easy at Northwest.
However, he believes he is back completely healthy —and is ready to run for the Pioneers.
“I feel like I am back and strong and ready. Don’t have any issues,” he said.
Schroeder, simply, said it best.
“You couldn’t ask for a better kid. Gabe works hard, is dedicated, and if you ask him to go run on his own, he will do it. Marietta is getting a special athlete. He is self-motivated, disciplined, and will do whatever he needs to do to make himself better,” said the coach. “I hope Marietta appreciates what he is coming in as and what he can do.”
Morrell plans to major in Biology Pre Med at Marietta, with goals of attending medical school upon his graduation.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved