NORTH AUGUSTA — After losing two members of last year’s state-champion relay team, Kyle Morrell entered his senior year free of expectations but with a desire to finish strong.
Morrell and his North Augusta teammates surprised even themselves.
For his efforts in helping the Yellow Jackets relay team claim consecutive state titles, Morrell is The Augusta Chronicle’s All-Area Track and Field Boys Athlete of the Year.
The 2016 North Augusta 4x400 relay team won the Class AAAA state championship but graduated two runners. Morrell and DeJuan Bell were the returners, and Morrell wasn’t sure what to expect entering his final year.
With Morrell and Bell leading the way, and Jose Alvarez and Hayden Parker joining the team, they not only repeated as state champions but improved on their time at 3:21.62.
“I did not see that coming,” Morrell said. “Me and DeJuan were the only ones coming back, and I knew we had some people starting to get better and try harder so they could earn that spot. They did try hard. We got a better time. I wanted to finish my senior year like the seniors from last year got to.”
Morrell also finished sixth in the 400-meter dash and had a hand in half of North Augusta’s points in the state meet.
The state championship wasn’t his only shining moment. He finished first in three of his four events at the Region 4-AAAA meet to lead North Augusta to its first region title since 1977. Morrell, Bell and Alvarez were named co-MVPs for the region.
“To be able to win the region for the first time in 40 years, and to have so many people advance and do well at the state finals, that was pretty sweet,” North Augusta boys coach John Kucela said.
Morrell’s high school career at the state level is over, but he and his relay teammates have one more competition together when they travel to nationals June 18 in North Carolina.
After that, Morrell will prepare to run at Charleston Southern, where he recently signed to compete for the revamped program. He plans to join the Air Force after college.
“I kept trying my hardest while I was here,” Morrell said. “I guess my work paid off, because I was happy with how I finished my senior year.”
Reach David Lee at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.