Prep cross-country: Alta's Morton sets sights on national title

Prep cross-country • Senior holds Class 5A state meet record.
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He's won state titles and crushed a state record. He's competed among the best in the nation and is being courted by the best Division I programs in the nation.

Alta senior harrier Kramer Morton has accomplished just about everything a high school runner can.

But there's still one thing he'd like to cross off the long list.

"I'd really like to go for a national title this year," said Morton, who placed 16th at Foot Locker Nationals last season. "That's my main focus."

"There's absolutely no reason he can't win," teammate and No. 2 runner Brayden Lavery said.

After all, Morton has been known to outdo himself.

Morton was solid as a freshman, fast enough for varsity but not enough to make headlines. The potential was there, but competition was new.

But things started to click as he logged more miles and pushed the pace. Under the direction of his coach, Rob Murphy, an elite Masters' runner in his own right, Morton thrived under a rigorous training schedule and started to win.

"No one works harder than [Kramer]." said Lavery, a hidden talent who gave up a starting role as a cornerback on the football team in his senior year to join cross country. "He makes sure each day counts and fights for everything."

The payoff came quickly.

The elite runners soon were within his line of sight. Then he was clipping their heels.

He won a few races, including the region title as a sophomore. As the wins rolled in, Murphy made sure Morton knew that's where he belonged.

"I started to feel more confidence in myself and my performances," he said.

Then his moment arrived.

With 400 meters to go in the 2012 Class 5A state championship race, Morton was neck-and-neck with one of his friends and rivals from American Fork, Brayden McClellan.

Morton knew he'd put in the miles. He knew his competition and had been perfecting his kick for a moment just like this.

"I just had to go for it," he said.

So Morton laid it on thick, putting some distance between him and second place. As he gutted out the final meters, he watched his peripheral and waited for someone to challenge his final steps.

No one ever came.

When he crossed the finish line, he had no idea he'd set a 5A state record of 15 minutes, 13.2 seconds on the 3-mile course.

"I couldn't believe it had happened," Morton said. "All these guys are so amazing, I was sure he was going to catch me. I never thought I had it in the bag."

The modesty continues to serve him well.

Morton already has earned victories at the Highland Invitational, Murray Invitational and Herriman Invitational this season.

He logged more miles than ever before over the summer, focusing on high-elevation aerobic training to lock down his base. Next up: speed.

"I train to be strong enough aerobically to stick with anybody," Morton said. "Then I'll win with my kick."

That's the goal. But even as he stocks up on victories, Morton maintains a healthy respect for his main opponents.

After all, he knows what it takes.

"It's really an honor to be able to race against all these guys," he said. "And at the end of the race, you're so exhausted, no one has the energy to be angry. It's all about respect." —

A closer look

Alta senior Kramer Morton's performances at the 5A state meet:

Year Finish Time

2012 1 15:13.2

2011 9 15:56.4