Moran back on track

Heptathlete recovers from an injury to participate in her second Trials.
Friday, July 9, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:19 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Since Michelle Moran was 9, she has competed in road races with her father, Michael.

By the time she reached high school, they had run about 125 races together.

A dream Moran, 25, generated at an early age will be put to the test for the second time at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials today in Sacramento, Calif., in the heptathlon. Moran competed in the 2000 Olympic Trials, but a back injury plagued her. She was unable to compete at the level she needed.

At a young age, Moran saw marathon running as her calling, but during her sophomore year at Lafayette High in St. Louis, Moran made a remarkable discovery. Not only was she a great runner, but she also could high jump.

In Moran’s sophomore year, she earned a state championship in the high jump. She won state titles her junior and senior years, attracting recruiters from Mississippi, Missouri and Iowa.

Moran came to Missouri to compete in the high jump, but gradually her talent as a heptathalete emerged.

Her collegiate career helped move her in the direction of her Olympic aspirations.

Moran achieved All-American status and won the Big 12 Conference championships her junior year in 2000 and qualified for the 2000 Olympic Trials. That year proved to be a turning point in her career and life.

“She was the Big 12 champ,” Michael Moran said. “It made me think, ‘Wow, she’s got more talent than I thought.’”

After the Big 12 championships in 2000, Michelle Moran faced a major obstacle in her career, a broken vertebrae in her back. Trainers told her she could compete in the Trials, but she couldn’t train for it.

“They basically told me, ‘You can go to the Trials, but we advise you not to train anymore right now; you have to rest because that is the only way this thing is going to get better,’” Moran said.

Afraid she might never compete again, Moran took 1 1/2 years off from track after the Trials. The next year she started to refocus and concentrated on getting her body back into shape.

“Really since probably the past year, year and half has been just kind of sharpening, getting it to where I can compete at this level,” Moran said.

This season, Moran started to compete without back pain and saw an improvement in her performances.

“The middle of the season this year, I started seeing signs of potential. ‘I was like holy cow, it’s coming back,’” Moran said. “It was a very encouraging season.”

In May, she qualified for the Trials at Missouri’s Audrey Walton Combined event, setting a stadium record of 5,698 points.

“I know in my head and my heart that I’m capable of doing what it would take to make the team. I just feel like it would be up the road a little,” Moran said.

It is common for heptathletes to peak at 29, and Moran predicts she has a more realistic chance when she is 29 in 2008.

Moran is seeded No. 13 of 27. The Olympic Trials automatic qualifying cut is 5,750 points, and the provisional cut is 5,475. Moran’s top competition will come from Shelia Burrell, seeded first with 6,272 points and Kim Schiemenz, seeded second with 6,209.

The top three finishers qualify for next month’s Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

Moran is hoping to finish in the top eight, which would give her a chance to compete internationally while representing the United States.

“I’m going into this just thinking, ‘Do the best you can from one event to the next,”‘ Moran said. “It is just another meet, I’m going to get in there and give it everything I have.”

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