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Cross Country: Two-sport star mananges busy schedule
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North Hall’s Jennifer Morris has been a busy young lady with her athletic endeavors this fall.

She’s been constantly challenged with keeping precise time management and enough self-determination to make it through a rigorous practice schedule each afternoon as a dual-sport athlete with the Lady Trojans volleyball and cross country teams.

Morris, a senior, found out quickly that playing two sports in the same season is a sun up to sun down commitment with class, homework and enough cardiovascular exercise each afternoon to make a person of even a moderate fitness level cringe. However, she also found out how rewarding it can be to commit whole-heartedly to become your best in two sports.

Her main reason for juggling two sports wasn’t to see how many ribbons and trophies she could attach to her name. It was for a lifestyle change.

"I really wanted to be healthy," Morris said. "I also eat really healthy now, all I eat is fruits, veggies and chicken."

Morris is quick to admit that volleyball, where she played setter for the Lady Trojans’ back-to-back Area 7-AAA champions, is her love. She led the Lady Trojans in service aces (74) and assists (224).

But that doesn’t diminish her devotion to running. She’s trained thoroughly for today’s Region 7-AAA meet at Unicoi State Park, where she hopes to lead North Hall to a title and berth in the state meet in Carrollton.

"I have confidence we can win region," Morris said. "My goal is to place as high as I can to help the team win."

This first-year cross country runner quickly assimilated to the Lady Trojans’ group of talented runners early and finished ninth overall (23-minutes, 14-seconds) at the Hall County championships on Oct. 11 at Chestatee Middle. Her personal best time this season was a 22:19 at the Coach Wood Invitational two weeks ago at Gainesville State College.

"She’s been a welcomed addition to the team," North Hall coach Jean Foster said. "It’s worked out well for her to do both with Area championships in volleyball and region championships not falling at the same time."

With practices at the same time each afternoon in the fall, Morris first and foremost honored her commitment to the volleyball program. She fulfilled cross country training requirements in the evenings, according to Foster.

It wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination.

After leaving volleyball practice each afternoon, Morris would either stay on North Hall’s campus and run laps or go home and run around her family’s neighborhood. She finds enough energy to run approximately five miles each evening.

"I’m proud of the initiative she’s shown," her father Nath Morris said. "Her focus is being conscious of a healthy lifestyle."

Morris has been interested in running for years now. She ran the Peachtree Road race with her father last summer for the fourth time and finished with a strong time of 42:38. Morris says her goal is to eventually top her grandfather Dale Morris’ personal best time of 40:20.

Initially she didn’t consider running cross country for North Hall feasible with her commitment to volleyball.

Foster took notice of Morris’ time in the Peachtree and knew right off the bat she could be a strong addition to the Lady Trojans runners. First, the Lady Trojans coach made sure to consult with North Hall volleyball coach Debbie Wiley to make sure she wouldn’t be stepping on any toes to invite Morris to run cross country.

Once the logistics were hammered out, it was a natural fit.

On Oct. 20, Morris ran cross country in the morning with her personal best time at the Coach Wood Invitational and then stepped up in the evening to help North Hall’s volleyball team grab the Area 7-AAA title. Luckily, both of those meets took part here in Hall County to make it possible.

She became aware later that if North Hall’s volleyball team had advanced past the first round of the state playoffs, she would have been forced to choose between volleyball and cross country this week.

"I don’t know what I would have done if I had to choose," Morris said.

All season long the volleyball team has been happy about Morris’ devotion to play both sports. The Lady Trojans’ volleyball team even convinced their coach to finished practice early the same day of the Hall County cross country championships to show up in unison to cheer on Morris.

She was totally surprised to see the volleyball team all there to show their support as she crossed the finish line.

While Morris doesn’t plan on playing volleyball in the future, she’s leaving the door open to run cross country at a smaller college or university.

"I’m glad I competed in both volleyball and cross country," Morris said. "It showed me what I could accomplish if I set my mind to it."

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