The Suburbanite
  • Rare Air: Estes exits as most-decorated Green athlete ever

  • At the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I track and field meet, Morgan Estes claimed her second straight pole vault title and, in the process, cemented her status as the most decorated athlete in Green track and field history.

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  • At the Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl championship celebration in February, future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis punctuated the second title of his career by proclaiming to the assembled crowd of tens of thousands, “That’s two for me. That’s two for me.”
    Ray, meet Morgan Estes.
    Estes may not have received a parade or an elaborate celebration, but at the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I track and field meet, she claimed her second straight pole vault title and, in the process, cemented her status as the most decorated athlete in Green track and field history.
    Estes’ triumph closed out an unbeaten season and one in which she was never really tested or pushed by an opponent until the Austintown Fitch regional meet. Her goal of 13-2 to break the state record for all divisions didn’t happen, but a jump of 13-0 1/4 in Columbus gave her the back-to-back championships as well as the meet and state records for Division I.
    “I am happy with that,” Estes said. “It wasn’t the all-time record that I wanted to get, but it was the Division I meet and overall record.”
    Prior to her record-breaking jump, Green pole vault coach Dan Gourley pulled her aside and told her that his birthday was the next day and that for his special day, all he wanted was to see her break the record. On her next attempt, she cleared the bar and before she even hit the pit on the way down, the celebration had begun.
    With two outdoor titles to add to her two indoor state crowns, Estes has gone places even previous Green state champions such as Kelsie Abhe and Carrie Kayes never did. Although both won state titles, neither was able to cap their senior season on top of the podium in Columbus.
    “I know from my school, the most anyone has ever won is two and I’ve won four if you count indoor and outdoor, so I think that’s pretty cool,” Estes added. “But I don’t really look at it like, ‘Oh, I’ve done all of that,’ I just know I’ve accomplished what I needed to.”
    “We were hoping she would break that senior year curse,” Gourley said.
    Gourley, who was the head coach when Abhe and Kayes were competing for the Bulldogs, keeps a poster-size photo of the duo from the NCAA championships on his wall, when Abhe was competing for Indiana and Kayes for the University of Akron. He may want to make room for another poster on that wall if Estes’ upward career trajectory continues.
    Although he stepped down after the 2012 season, Gourley returned as an assistant at the request of new head coach Maedene Pfouts. He points to Estes’ relentless work ethic as a reason for her success and in looking back, Estes has no regrets over all the time she spent practicing, training and dogmatically pursuing her goals.
    Page 2 of 3 - She says she hasn’t ever wished that she had taken more time to step back and enjoy the ride, preferring to be thankful for the time and energy she put into achieving a piece of Green athletics history. She is also cognizant of what those who came before her accomplished and is thankful to be able to share that success with them.
    Estes was able to focus exclusively on the pole vault because after running sprints when she started track in junior high, she struck a unique deal with Gourley before her freshman year.
    “Once I got to high school, Mr. Gourley told me if I jumped over 11 feet, he wouldn’t make me run, so when I did that, I haven’t had to run since,” Estes said with a laugh.
    Gourley doesn’t recall the exchange, but concedes that he probably made the deal. Because of it, the only distance Estes has run the past four years is 73 feet. That’s her starting mark on the pole vault runway and the spot where school, league and state-record jumps have originated.
    Her ascent to the top of Division I pole vaulting began in earnest after a disappointing outing at the state meet her sophomore year. After placing second as a freshman, she failed to medal the following year, placing ninth. The disappointment drove her throughout the ensuing year, pushing her to do more not only with her technique, but with her training and conditioning.
    “That’s when I decided I needed to do more. That’s when I started indoor and working with my strength coach and it paid off last year. Then I just kept working harder this year, learning new things and getting on new poles and it worked again,” Estes continued.
    Her training includes both upper and lower body strengthening, but centers on core training to help maintain good form when going over the bar. Ironically, when she clipped the bar on her final attempt at 13-3 at the state meet, her upper body just grazed the bar on her way down after she had seemingly cleared the record-breaking height.
    Although she competed one final time in a Green uniform at the Midwest Meet of Champions the week after the state meet and won again, defeating opponents from Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, there was a definite emotional aspect to the state meet for Estes. She recalled her mother, Jennifer, asking if she was even excited about the meet because she wasn’t as outwardly enthusiastic as the year before.
    “I knew I was so excited, but I knew after that day it was over and I didn’t want to think about that yet because it made me sad,” she admitted.
    Page 3 of 3 - She exited the high school scene with an extra parting gift: Seeing Green tied for seventh in the state thanks to her efforts and those of teammates Emily Hooker (third in the 400) and Erika Rector (sixth in the 800).
    Her family, including her mother, father Dave and three younger siblings, was a part of an 11-person contingent at the state meet to cheer her on and celebrate her accomplishment. Training partner and close friend Allyson Simmons of Fairless,  the Division II pole vault champion, was also there to help Estes calm her nerves and deliver a big hug after the record-breaking jump.
    This fall, Estes will go from being a Bulldog to a Golden Flash, attending Kent State and competing in indoor and outdoor track. A fan of medical shows on television, she will major in nursing and hopes to some day work as an emergency room nurse. If the past four years are any indication, a set of aqua-green surgical scrubs is in her future.
    Reach Andy at 330-899-2872 or andy.harris@thesuburbanite.com.
    On Twitter: @aharrisBURB