Morgan McNaughton To Continue Athletic And Academic Career At St. Francis University

(Above image by Ella Aaron: Seated – Morgan with mom Holly McNaughton (left) and C-L Cross Country and Track head coach Nicole Oakes; Back (L-R) C-L athletic director Brad Frazier, assistant cross country coaches Erin Hepfl and Kelsey Makin, C-L principal Mel Aaron)

Clarion-Limestone track and cross-country standout Morgan McNaughton, daughter of Chuck and Holly McNaughton, has signed her National Letter of Intent to continue her athletic and academic career at St. Francis University in Loretto.

Morgan, who will run cross-country and will also compete in both indoor and outdoor track, will be receiving both athletic and academic scholarships.

Morgan was a Medal Winner in the 2021 Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) State Cross-Country Meet, finishing twenty-second, which earned her All-State.

(Morgan on the course at the 2021 PIAA State Cross-Country Meet)

She was the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference (KSAC) Cross-Country MVP and was the Girls’ Champion at the KSAC Invitational.

Morgan has recorded a personal best of 20:09 5k (3.12 miles).

St. Francis competes in the NCAA Division I in all sports and is a member of the Northeast Conference (NEC). The Red Flash is headed by coach Doug Hoover, who coaches both Men’s and Women’s track and field, and cross-country.

Coach Hoover is in his tenth year as head coach. His Red Flash won several recent NEC championships, Women’s Cross Country (2016), Men’s Outdoor Track and Field (2019) and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field (2021). He was named NEC Men’s Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field Coach of the Year in 2019.

(St. Francis Track and Field and Cross-Country Coach Doug Hoover)

As a competitor, coach Hoover was a member of the United States Summer Biathlon (cross-country running and marksmanship) National Team from 1997-2012. He won five National Championships and was in five World Championships. He was the USA Flag Bearer in the 2017 World Championships and was the and the 2019 USA Team Captain.

Coach Hoover was impressed with Morgan right from the start. “From the moment she stepped on our campus, I felt that Morgan is a great fit at our university and on our cross country and track & field team.”

He likes her competitiveness. “She’s got a great attitude and outlook and is just a tough competitor who loves what she does.” 

(Morgan with fellow Lion’s PIAA State Meet competitors, Loagan Lutz and Ty Rankin with Coaches Kelsey Makin (left), NIcole Oakes (second from left and Erin Hepfl (right)

Coach Hoover sees Morgan as a great addition to the program, saying, “We’re looking for great student-athletes and great teammates, and Morgan certainly fits that description. The progress that she made on the cross-country course last fall indicates that she can be a positive contributor to both our cross country and our track & field teams in the Northeast Conference.”

What does Morgan like about her college choice? “I chose St. Francis because I loved the energy of the campus and the feel of Loretto, PA. They really emphasized personal instruction, and the importance of the individual student.”

KSAC Invitational Champion Morgan (left) )

As to her major and future plans, Morgan said, “I’m majoring in Finance. I would like to be a personal financial advisor.” (She plans to earn her master’s degree in their five-year program.)

She is very impressed with her new team. “I really liked Coach Hoover and some of the team that I got to meet at lunch during my visit, they were all very welcoming. It stood out to me that St. Francis will give me the opportunities to run at places like Penn State and Bucknell, and I feel that will help me become a better athlete.” 

(Morgan signing her National Letter of Intent)

Morgan has a number of folks she is grateful to, for helping her along this journey. “Thank you to my parents, especially my dad who learned about training and running along with me, my high school coaches for helping me progress, Mrs. Lutz (Diane Lutz) for always taking photos of my races, and thanks to all of my team members, junior high and varsity for presenting me with endless support and love no matter what.”

Clarion-Limestone Coach Nicole Oakes shared this about Morgan’s decision to run in college, “This season has definitely been Morgan’s standout season, I remember having dinner with our 2022 seniors in the winter of 2020 while they were juniors, and Morgan expressed that she really hadn’t thought about running in college but thought it might be sort of fun. 

“Sometime between that dinner and Fall 2021 Morgan set her mind on a goal and started putting in the work to achieve it. It definitely fits her character, when Morgan gets an idea, she makes a plan and puts in the work to carry it out.” 

Coach Oakes is impressed with a fundraising project Morgan started. “Some might remember in 2019 when Morgan started a running, fundraising campaign she called, “Dashin for a Passion” to raise money for St. Jude’s hospital. That campaign was just an early example of her determination.”

Coach Oakes feels Morgan will do well at the college level. “I think Morgan will do well as a college athlete, as she currently is used to being involved in many groups and activities, while excelling in school.” 

And about the journey with Morgan. “It was great to ride along with Morgan’s success this season, not only is it rare and a great achievement to medal in a state championship meet, but we have also looked into it and found that Morgan is actually the first state medalist in Cross-Country for Clarion-Limestone… ever! (at least that we could find record of) 

(Dianne Lutz Image: Morgan (fourth from right) with the other medalists at States)

“Hopefully Morgan has paved the way for future success for Clarion Limestone athletes at the state level.  Both this season and during her junior year, Morgan acted as a mentor to the younger girls on the team where she connected with them during practice and outside, planning runs and offering advice.” 

Coach Oakes shared these well-wishes, “As Morgan heads off to make her mark at St. Francis we wish her the best of luck. We will think of her as our upcoming girls continue to make waves in the KSAC… and every time we find a pair of shoes left behind….” 

Clarion-Limestone Assistant Coach Kelsey Makin also shared some fine comments about Morgan. “This was my first year being a volunteer coach for the C-L cross country team and of course watching Morgan excel as a runner. What I saw in Morgan and many of our other athletes was determination and hard work. Not only in cross country but in their academics as well. Morgan put in a lot of extra time this past year to become the runner she is now. While doing that she participated in band and is also an exceptional academic student taking both high school and college classes.

“As a former college athlete, I know what running at the next level is like and it is completely different from high school cross country, especially coming from a small high school. Morgan has the potential to excel in college running and also in her academics as long as she continues with her determination and hard work.

“Morgan has a bright future ahead of her and I can’t wait to see what all she accomplishes.”

Mother, Holly McNaughton said, “Morgan is well-rounded and her talents extend beyond running.  She is an honor student who decided to take Calculus 1 and 2 at Clarion University this school year to challenge herself academically. 

“In addition, she is a talented musician who can play the alto saxophone, piano, clarinet, bass, and guitar.  She has participated in marching band since seventh grade.”

Holly shared this about her daughter’s drive, “I am extremely proud of how hard Morgan trained last summer to make her goal of making it to states a reality. She pushed herself and was rather consistent in her workouts. I was in awe at the distances she was running each week in the heat of the summer, but she stayed motivated. Morgan gave herself a little rest after winning her state medal but then began getting ready for the spring track season.” 

(Morgan with a couple of other runners on the State Meet course)

“She plans on making it to districts in May.  She qualified in the 800, 1600, and 3200 last year.  States is definitely on her radar, and it would not surprise me to be in Shippensburg at the end of May.

“I look forward to watching her compete at the collegiate level.  I have faith that she will continue to put forth her best effort while balancing her academic responsibilities as well.  Running has become a passion for her that will serve her well into adulthood.” 

Holly shared these thoughts on the camaraderie displayed by the Lions, “The support from Morgan’s cross-country coaches the past four years has been amazing. The C-L cross country program has grown the past few years because of their positive energy and dedication to the young athletes. 

“This year was the first year in a long time that they had enough girls to compete as a team.  Morgan’s good friend and teammate, Jessica McCracken has been with Morgan since the beginning. They have provided each other with support and encouragement through challenging competitions, injuries, terrible weather, disappointments and successes. 

“Morgan graduating this year is bittersweet, but I appreciate that she was able to be part of such a great program.”

Father, Chuck McNaughton adds, “She had dedicated coaches, teammates, and parents that helped guide her to this point, but Morgan truly deserves all of the credit. She found a new love of running that lead to her dedication 12 months out of the year. The day she decided, during her junior year, that she wanted to run in college, she took her training to an entirely new level. It was that love of running and the dedication to training that took her from a good runner that colleges would let walk, on to a great runner who won a scholarship to compete at Division I.

(Morgan, with proud papa at Homecoming)

Chuck likes what he sees in Morgan’s college choice. “St. Francis will be an excellent spot for her to improve as a cross-country runner and a middle-distance runner in track. She also chose St. Francis for its strong academics, especially in the field of finance in which she will major.”

And Morgan is also planning on continuing her music career. Chuck said, “Beside running, Morgan is also a member of the C-L band and plans to play in ensembles at St. Francis. Morgan and her parents would like to thank everyone at C-L from coaches to teammates to administrators who helped her in this process.”

(Morgan marching with the C-L Band in the Autumn Leaf Festival Parade)

Congratulations to Morgan and her family, Clarion-Limestone, St. Francis and the who Clarion-Limestone community!!!! Morgan, you make us all proud!!!!

(Thank you to Ella Aaron, Dianne Lutz, St. Francis University and others whose images were used in this article.)