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El Sentinel

Life's Another Hurdle For Athlete

By Bill Buchalter

April 6, 2002
Copyright © 2002
El Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.




César Morales approaches track as he does life.

To the Oak Ridge High School senior, they are one and the same.

"Track is something that requires a lot of dedication and determination. If you don't prepare yourself, you cannot succeed," Morales said.

"You must always be ready to run, and be willing to give 110 percent. In this sport, there is no easy way. You have to stay focused."

That also is true in life, and track has helped Morales stay focused and prepare for what's in his future.

Computer engineering is his dream. And he would love to have track help him achieve that dream. He ran his first 400-meter hurdles race of the year at the Brian Jaeger Invitational, running 57.46. His goal is to run under 55 seconds by the Bert M. Warden Foundation Golden South Classic.

College coaches will work with a student-athlete who carries a 3.2 grade-point average and can contribute to relays and hurdle events on the track.

"César has taken his talents to the highest level he can, district, region and state," said former Oak Ridge Coach John Hemmer. "If every team had three César's, they would tough to beat."

Oak Ridge also plays an important role in Morales' life. His parents, both of Puerto Rican background, attended Oak Ridge, and his father played football for current Oak Ridge administrator Lou Fiorelli at Memorial Junior High, now middle school. He traces his family roots to Corozal and Aguadilla in Puerto Rico.

Morales not only is one of the school's top track athletes but he also earned 2nd team all-Metro Conference in boys volleyball. But track is his passion and his love.

"Track is life. It is the perfect definition of a sport. It requires speed, agility, strength, dedication and hard work. You have to be in shape at all times and be willing to put it all on the line every time," he said.

"Coach Hemmer set me straight my freshman year. He told me this is a sport that requires work. If you can't handle that, then you don't need to be here. That intensified something within me to want to get better.

"That changed my mindset. I want to be a leader and to be remembered as a leader. This school has a rich tradition in track and for me to be a part of something like that is an accomplishment which I always will appreciate.

"Coach Hemmer has a saying that those who stay will be champions. I believe that," he said.

Olympic hurdler-sprinter Terrance Trammell is Morales' track hero. Michael Jordan is his sports hero. And former Oak Ridge hurdler Johnny Love is his high school hero.

Morales also is proud of his heritage and his community service. He worked in the after-school program at Walker Middle School, performing 360 hours of service. "What a great experience," he said.

He is fluent in Spanish and English and says both languages are spoken at home. His favorite school subjects are English and social studies, but he has a love for history as strong as his love for track.

"I love learning the history and cultures of countries throughout the world," he said.

"I listen to my grandmother comparing the way things are here to the way they were back in Puerto Rico. We talk about cultural differences in the way people treat each other and attitudes. It's very healthy to reflect upon cultures and learn as much as you can about them."

It's the learning process plus the work ethic learned from participating in track that Morales says will prepare him mentally and physically to have the enthusiasm to succeed at whatever he does.

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