PROVO, Utah – Sometimes a dream or goal seems unrealistic. For some, the fear of failure, lack of consistent effort, or self-doubt can prevent their success. Others are determined to do whatever it takes to make their dream a reality.
Maria Morley, hailing from Stillwater, Minnesota grew up participating in sports, mostly swimming. When she became a freshman in high school, her older sister was a senior and captain on the cross country team and would take her to practices over the summer.
“All my siblings at one point in their high school career, ran cross country,” Morley said. “It started out as fun. I wasn’t good at all my freshman year. I didn’t know what I was doing.”
By her junior year, things clicked for Morley. She became one of the top runners on the team, and she developed a passion for running. The highlight of her high school career came during her senior year. She finished in second place at the state meet as part of her school’s 4x400-meter relay team.
“I was a decent high school athlete,” Morley said. “I went to state in track a couple years, but I wasn’t a big star or phenom.”
But Morley wasn’t ready to give up running after high school. She received some interest from a few Division III programs. She seriously considered a small Division III school not far from her home in Minnesota. There, she would be able to run cross country and track for the school, while competing near home.
Ultimately, Morley decided BYU would be the best fit for her. She liked the opportunities in education and the adventure of being away from home. That, and her three siblings were attending BYU at the time.
During the summer before coming to BYU, Morley thought her running career was over.
“I guess that’s it for running. Maybe I’ll start training for a marathon or half-marathon or join the running club and run for fun,” Morley said.
But within a year of arriving on campus, Morley began to realize she wanted to run more than an occasional marathon or half-marathon. She missed running competitively for a school and the satisfaction of participating as a member of a team.
“In the winter of my freshman year, I really wanted to run so bad and really wanted to run here,” Morley said.
She began running several miles a day and working out at a gym. Sometimes while training, she would see the cross country team out on a run near campus. She dreamed that someday she would be running with them.
Over time and with continued commitment to training, Morley noticed significant improvement. She began believing it was worth a shot to try out for BYU’s team.
“I had noticed that as I went out for runs, my pace was getting faster,” Morley said. “I had been training my freshman year with the goal of one day trying out. My thought was, ‘I’ll keep trying out until I make the team or graduate.’”
During the summer of 2014 she reached out to BYU women’s cross country coach Patrick Shane about trying out. Shane encouraged her to keep training and invited her to tryouts.
The night of the tryouts, Morley was the first to arrive at the Clarence F. Robison Track and Field Complex. She was both nervous and excited. Excited for the opportunity to make the team, but nervous because she did not consider the workout at tryouts as one of her strengths.
“I had been training, but I hadn’t been doing any speed work,” Morley said. “I had just been doing base miles all summer, so I was intimidated because the workout at tryouts was mile intervals.”
Morley did her best at tryouts and felt content about her effort. She knew she could do better having just arrived in Provo from Minnesota a few days earlier and hadn’t completely adjusted to the altitude.
After tryouts, Morley was invited to compete unattached at BYU’s first meet of the season in Murray, Utah. Shortly after the meet, she was invited to an official track team informational meeting. It was then that she knew that her dream was being realized.
“I never thought I’d be fast enough to run for a Division I school like BYU,” Morley said. “BYU has such a strong program and legacy. I didn’t even consider running here to be an option.”
Morley competed a few times during the 2014 cross country season and made the cut for a spot on the traveling roster for an invitational at Notre Dame University.
During the indoor season, Morley will compete in the mile and 3,000-meters.
“What really told me she has great stuff was at our intra-squad time trial in December,” Shane said. “She improved by twenty seconds in the mile. Maria has a lot of talent and has a career and future here.”
During Morley’s freshman year at BYU, she made the decision to pursue her passion. It didn’t seem realistic at first, but with continued perseverance and hard work, she did it.
“It’s still unbelievable and surreal that I’m here and on this team,” Morley said. “If you had told me as a sophomore in high school that I’d be running for BYU someday, I would have laughed at you. It’s a dream come true.”