• September 20, 2014

Allan Mandell On Sports Hill grades high in class and on track, diamond

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Posted: Sunday, April 20, 2014 1:14 am

For the past four years, the Salado High School athletic program has been blessed to have Morgan Hill.

On Thursday in McGregor, Hill won area championships in both the 300 hurdles and 100 hurdles. She took fourth in the long jump and was a member of Salado’s 4x100 sprint relay fourth-place team.

On Friday, less than 18 hours after her outstanding track accomplishments, Hill put on her softball jersey, tossed a complete game and was the winning pitcher in Salado’s 10-0 whipping of Cameron Yoe.

The southpaw Hill, mixing a rocket-quick fastball with a mesmerizing curve, struck out eight batters in the six-inning affair. So dominant was Hill, that no Lady Yoe advanced past second base. The victory meant Salado leapfrogged Academy to finish second in District 22-2A.

“What Morgan does here at Salado High School is pretty unbelievable,” said Lady Eagles second-year head softball coach Kory Craddick. “She works early in the morning on track, goes to school, then works a little more on track, then comes to softball practice — and she makes it all work and competes at both sports at the highest level.”

“What Morgan did this week in both sports is fantastic,” said 15-year head track coach Cindy Mewhinney. “But you have to understand one thing: Morgan has been great at both sports for four straight years.”

Indeed, Hill is a four-year varsity lettermen in both track and softball. More than that, she excelled right from the start. As a freshman, Hill earned honorable mention all-district in softball and qualified for the regional track meet in the 300 hurdles.

As a sophomore, she was the district champion in the 300 hurdles and qualified for regionals in three other events: the 100 hurdles, triple jump and 4x100 sprint relay.

Her junior year, Hill earned first-team all-district and first-team all-area softball honors, and qualified for regionals in both hurdle events and again as a member of the sprint relay team.

Two weeks ago, she won the district championship in both the 300 and 100 hurdles. All the while, she has continued to befuddle opposing batters from the circle with her arsenal of seven pitches.

Her fastball has been clocked at 64. Her curveball is even faster than her fastball.

“Yes,” Hill says with a laugh, “my curveball is my go-to pitch because it actually is faster than my fastball.”

She’ll also toss a back-door curve, rise, drop and screwball.

And once Hill thinks a batter has her fastball and lightning-quick curveball measured, she’ll feed you her changeup.

It’s a thing of beauty to watch. That off-speed devious change leaves batters dumbfounded, scratching their heads on their slow walk back to the bench.

“I am a competitor,” Hill says. “I’ll throw whatever pitch I need to. I always want to win.”

And to be a winner in two sports — which Hill most certainly is — she doesn’t just rely on hoping good luck comes her way, she works. And works, and works and works.

A typical spring day for Hill begins at 6:30 a.m.

“I practice the hurdles at that time,” Hill said.

Then she goes to school.

“Then, after school is out, I go to the track and do my workouts,” Hill said.

Then, once she’s done working out, she heads over to the softball field. Practices usually start at 4:45 p.m. and end around 7 p.m.

That’s a pretty full day, right?

Not for Morgan Hill.

“After softball practice, I have a pitching coach that I work with in Round Rock for private instruction,” Hill said. “We go from 8 to 9 p.m.”

An exhaustive full-time schedule? Maybe to some. But there’s more on Hill’s plate.

She’s actively involved in student council, yearbook and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She’s also a cheerleader.

Plus, she’s a member of the National Honors Society.

Oh yeah, we must discuss Hill’s grades.

You could ask Morgan Hill, “How does it feel to get a ‘B’ on your report card?” But this would be a very quick conversation.

Because Hill hasn’t the foggiest notion of how it feels to get a ‘B’ on a report card — she’s never seen one.

Yes, on top of all her athletic accomplishments, Hill is a straight-A student.

Four years taking classes at Salado and, in every class of every year, Hill hasn’t received anything but an ‘A.’

“I study in between classes,” Hill said. “Academics are very important to me. My parents always told me, ‘You can’t rely on sports. Sports might get you an athletic scholarship. But academics is where the focus must be.’ ”

Next fall, Hill will join the McLennan Community College pitching staff.

“That’s where God is calling me to go,” Hill said. “Not that I don’t enjoy running track because I enjoy it so much. But softball has a special place in my heart.”

Hill’s favorite memories at Salado, she said, “are the sports teams — making friends in sports. My softball team is a family and my track team is a family.”

This figures to be another big week for Hill and her two sports families. On Thursday and Saturday, the Lady Eagles, most likely, will be playing softball games as part of the 2014 postseason. On Friday and Saturday, Hill will compete in her four events in the regional track meet at Stephenville. If she can finish in the top two spots, she’ll advance to the state meet in Austin.

So there is a possibility that she’ll be competing in both track and softball on Saturday.

“I’ll be going to both,” Hill said. “No matter what. Absolutely. I’ll be at the track meet and then leave there at 3 p.m. on Saturday and be ready to play softball after that.

“I’m so excited for this week. For my senior year, to have the chance to go to state and for our softball team to also have a chance to go to state — that’s our goal and I think we can do it — is all very exciting to me.

“I am so blessed.”

And so are we — fans of high school sports that get the privilege of watching Morgan Hill compete in athletics. We’re blessed, too.

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