Big Sky Conference Champ Morley to Transfer from Montana

Bigfork native qualified for NCAA Nationals as a true freshman at University of Montana

By Dillon Tabish
Bigfork High School's Makena Morley won 3,200-meter Class B state championship in 2015 at Legends Stadium. Beacon File Photo

Makena Morley, one of the all-time great high school runners from Montana and the Big Sky Conference cross country champion this fall, intends to transfer from the University of Montana.

Morley, a Bigfork native who recently concluded her freshman season with an appearance at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, asked UM for a transfer-release to look at other schools and was granted that release, the university’s sports information department confirmed.

Morley confirmed with the Beacon that she will transfer after the semester concludes this week. She is in the process of deciding where she will transfer.

As one of the top prep runners in the nation at Bigfork High School, Morley was heavily recruited by Division I programs across the West. Early in her senior year, she said she had narrowed her list down to five potential schools — Utah, Boise State, Iowa State, Northern Arizona and University of Montana. She announced her commitment to Montana during the fall of that year.

UM is now losing its top distance runner, who became the school’s first athlete to qualify for NCAA Nationals since 2009.

As a true freshman this fall, she proved she can compete against top Division I talent. Morley won her debut race in Bozeman by more than 40 seconds, clocking 16:43 for three miles. The race included runners from Montana, Montana State, Utah, Utah State and Idaho State.

After missing a stretch of season due to a foot injury, Morley returned in November to win the Big Sky Conference cross country championship in Cedar City, Utah, covering the 5K course in 17:45. She became Montana’s first cross country conference champ since 2000.

She went on to place 39th at NCAA Pre-Nationals in Kentucky and was the seventh fastest freshman in the elite race, clocking 20:40.3.

At NCAA Nationals, she placed 97th in 20:49.

In Bigfork, Morley became one of the most decorated prep runners in state history. A multiple state champion in track and cross country, Morley was a four-time Gatorade Montana Cross Country Runner of the Year and set the all-class state record in her senior season of cross country. She won the Western Regional Foot Locker Cross Country Championship twice and finished third at Foot Locker Nationals in her senior year.

Her success reached new heights in January 2015 when she traveled to Scotland and won the junior women’s 4K race at the Great Edinburgh XCountry International Challenge. The victory distinguished her as one of the best young runners in the world.

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