Morenci student to compete in international event

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Cathy Jaramillo: Hector Morales, 19, hopes to travel to Australia to compete in an international track and field competition.

By Brooke Curley

MORENCI – Many kids dream of competing in the Olympics, but one Arizona high schooler may be given an experience close to it.

Hector Morales, a 19- year old Morenci High School senior, has been invited to represent Arizona on the 2017 Arizona Pacific Conference Track and Field team in Australia. Morales will be graduating in May and is very excited about the upcoming opportunity. A straight–A student, Morales plans to depart for Queensland, Australia on Monday, July 3. However, he needs the funding and sponsors to help pay for the $5,000 cost of international travel. Morales’ mother, Cathy Jaramillo, and the rest of his family  have worked hard since the beginning of January to collect the needed funds. So far, Morales has been successful in earning roughly $1,000. Although he and his family have yet to reach the $5,000 goal, he is looking forward to the experience.

“When I got invited to the Down Under Sports in Australia, I didn’t know how to act,” Morales said. “I was shocked. After the shock wore off, I was excited and nervous.”

Jaramillo told Gila Valley Central that her son began running at a young age to combat the effects of his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). After receiving medication for the disorder, Morales’ grades improved. However, he still enjoys running and intends to run through college.

“He started running when he had ADHD, to be able to focus,” Jaramillo said. “He loves to run.”

Morales’ hobbies include riding his longboard and going to the gym. He also enjoys visiting his grandfather, who is a Safford resident, and looking after his nieces and nephews.

“He’s a homeboy, actually,” Jaramillo said. “He would love to play basketball for college, but he doesn’t think he’s good enough.”

A teenager with big dreams, Morales wants to eventually join the Army, go to college and learn the trade of being a barber to pay for the cost of college. Notwithstanding these great goals, Morales’ origins are humbling.

While his mother was pregnant with him, she worked at the then Phelps Dodge mine in Morenci. While at work in the bucking room, Jaramillo’s uterus began hemorrhaging. Born three and a half months early, Morales was a preemie that wouldn’t eat or gain weight. Named by his father while his mother was sedated, Morales was eventually brought home three months later weighing a petite 5 pounds. Now the athlete towers over his mother and has the world ahead of him.

Jaramillo said she is proud of all that he has overcome to achieve this level of accomplishment.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better kid,” Jaramillo said. “He’s like my little piece of gold that I’ve hung onto forever.”

Morales hopes to make the trip to compete in the national Down Under sports event and to perform well.

“If I go, I want to do my best and not let down the people and family who supported me and helped me raise the money to go,” he said.

With roughly $4,000 and 9,429 miles to go, Morales hopes his story will help spread the word and increase sponsors. While in Australia, he would also like to hold a baby kangaroo.

Those interested in becoming a sponsor of offering assistance should email his mother, Cathy Jaramillo, at

What is Down Under Sports?

…to use the common language of sports to bridge the continents.” – George O’Scanlon, International Sports Spcialists Inc. President

International Sports Specialists, Inc. (ISSI) was founded in February, 1989, based upon the dream of a New Zealander by the name of George O’Scanlon. George fell in love with athletics, especially American football as a young man growing up in his native country of New Zealand. His desire over the years has been to promote gridiron, not only to the people of New Zealand, but also to Australia where he lived for many years. For over twenty years, ISSI has had the opportunity to share the land Down Under with tens of thousands of individuals from across the United States. The overwhelming success of the Down Under Bowl was a springboard for ISSI’s establishment of the Down Under Hoops Classic and eventually the Down Under International Games. From its first Down Under Bowl in 1989, when four states produced a handful of teams, to 2015 when ISSI sent athletes from almost all 50 states to compete in the Down Under Bowl, Hoops Classic and International Games, the goal has been the same; to use the common language of sports to bridge the continents.

The number of athletes desiring to participate in these events has continued to grow each year and ISSI anticipates further expansion. Some prior standouts of the Down Under Bowl include Jake “The Snake” Plummer past quarterback for Arizona State University and the Denver Broncos, and Ahman Green, running back for the Houston Texans. Many top universities also have Down Under Bowl Alumni.

ISSI hosts the annual Down Under Sports Tournaments which provide a forum for athletes from other countries to compete head-to-head in the sport they love. The Down Under Sports Tournaments have included competition in football, cheerleading, basketball, volleyball, golf, cross-country, track and field, free style wrestling and swimming. ISSI’s goal is to continue to provide athletes who excel in their sport the opportunity to experience the culture, beauty and grandeur of the land Down Under all within the framework of spirited and intense competition in many different sports.

Hector’s gofundme link here: