Bigfork High School graduate Makena Morley is one of seven Montana athletes joining the Montana High School Association (MHSA) Athletes’ Hall of Fame this year.
“It’s pretty special to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Morley said. “I wasn’t really expecting it because I thought it was something that can only happen when you’re older. It’s especially cool because I’m still living and training in Montana.”
Morley graduated from Bigfork in 2015 as one of the most decorated cross country and track and field athletes in state history.
She won 13 state titles across both sports. In cross country, she won four consecutive Class B championships, making her one of only four girls in state history to win four-straight titles in any classification. Three of her championships were run in state-record times. (Morley’s record time of 16:33 for a three-mile course still stands, but the state switched to the 5k distance in 2017.) Morley also made a name for herself on the national level by qualifying for the Footlocker National Cross Country Championships all four years of high school with three top-10 finishes. She represented Team USA in January of 2015 as a senior in high school and won the Great Buppa Cross Country Championships in Scotland.
“She’s very deserving of the recognition,” Sue Loeffler, former Bigfork High School head cross country coach, said. “As far as I’m concerned, even though I know I’m prejudiced, she was one of the better athletes to ever come out of Montana in any sport. I feel like she really put Montana on the map with her accomplishments in high school.”
Morley competed collegiately at the University of Montana for one season before transferring to the University of Colorado in Boulder. She qualified for NCAA National Championships a combined 13 times in cross country, as well as indoor and outdoor track. In 2018, her 8th-place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships helped the Buffs win the national title. She also set a school record in the 10,000-meter run with a time of 32:28.
After graduating from college during the height of the pandemic in 2020, Morley signed a professional contract with Asics and saw immediate success competing at the next level. She won her first national title as a professional athlete in 2021 at the U.S. 25-kilometer championships and recorded numerous top-five finishes at championships events. She competed in the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in 2021, competing in the 10,000-meter run.
Morley thrived as a road runner long before her professional debut, with numerous wins and records at the Missoula Half Marathon. Her debut at the marathon distance came at the 2021 Chicago Marathon where she finished 10th overall in 2:30:28. She is currently scheduled to run in the U.S. Marathon Olympic Trials in February, with the top three finishers making the team for the Paris Olympics this summer.
Along with her professional career, Morley, who lives and trains in Bozeman, is an assistant coach with the Montana State University cross country and track and field teams.
“She’s done a lot for Montana distance runners, and still does to this day,” Loeffler said.
In addition to Morley, the other members of the 2024 MHSA Athletes’ Hall of Fame class include Arie Grey, Lindsey Hall, Tuff Harris, Richard Kronebusch, Marc Mariani, and Luke Zeiger.
The MHSA Athletes’ Hall of Fame is sponsored by Wendy’s and consists of two nomination categories: “Modern Era” and “Legacy Era.” The Legacy category is for nominees who have graduated at least 50 years prior to the induction year. Kronesbusch is this year’s Legacy inductee.
The physical location of the Athletes’ Hall of Fame is at the Fortin Center on the campus of Rocky Mountain College in Billings. A plaque commemorating each inductee is on display on the second level in the gymnasium.
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