This is the tenth installment of “Old Pueblo Abuelo,” a Sunday thought on positive things happening in the Old Pueblo from a sometimes cranky and often times humorous grandfather actually born in Tucson.
The Sunnyside cross country program honored me by inducting me into the Los Mezquites Cross Country Invitational Hall of Fame Saturday morning during a break in the competition. By doing so, the program honored my parents, my brother Javier and my extended family.
This honor will always have a special place in my heart due to my personal connection to the Sunnyside community as an elementary student at Los Ranchitos and a middle school student at Sunnyside Junior High living on Del Moral Blvd by the airport. Growing up on the wrong side of the railroad tracks, I was fully aware of the efforts my parents, Hector and Elsa Morales, made to make our community a better one and they were well-known in the surrounding neighborhoods for trying to correct the sins of others like the ones who contaminated our water and poisoned our playgrounds and schools by allowing the dumping fuels and detergents by airplanes making their approach into in the airport. Only on the southside.
My siblings, Hector (1974), Debbie (1976), Carlos (1980) and Javier (1985) all graduated from Sunnyside High School and Hector played football for legendary coach Paul Petty and he also ran cross country for another legend in Jim Mielke. Mielke is a Hall of Fame coach who touched the lives of countless runners at Sunnyside and Pima Community College and I was honored to have him by my side on Saturday.
I received this honor partially due to of my commitment to also cover and recognize the athletes who do not compete under the lights of a Friday night or in front of hundreds of fans in a gym or a stadium. Runners, golfers, swimmers and tennis players all wear the same colors as their football, basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball and wrestling classmates and they wear them with the same pride. They also deserve to be seen and written about.
I take special pride in knowing my younger brother Javier was with me when I was recognized on Saturday because much of this recognition is shared with him. I was alone on this experiment for a decade but we have joined forces over the last several years to bring our community the best youth and high school coverage in the state because it really is “more than football.”
I started out this experiment with motto of “do no harm” to the kids who I cover, which means not concentrating on the errors and mistakes that one might see in print. For instance, the name of a 16-year-old who drops a pop fly has no business in one of our stories and I spend a lot of inches trying to explain the rules and implications of the sports I am watching so that others might understand what is actually happening – especially come playoff time.
I feel the community is on board for what my brother and I are trying to accomplish here and my induction into the Los Mezquites Cross Country Invitational Hall of Fame is an important indicator of that. I put it up next my Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero statue and the Ray McNally Award presented to me by Sabino High School several years ago.
Those plaques and awards, like the Tucson Youth Football and Spirit Federation award and the Ira “Skip” Bryant Media award given to me by the AIA, are all in the same room as the ribbons, letters and awards my children have won over the years and they are all in the vicinity of the national, state and local awards my father was honored with in his career as a civil rights leader and politician. My recognitions are not as awe-inspiring as a letter from Congress or a note from a President but they are a small token of what he fought so many years for.
In the final weeks of his life my father told me he didn’t want his grandchildren to be burdened with the weight of trying to fix the wrongs of society. He wanted them to enjoy the victories he fought for and then he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You did too.”
It was the closest he had ever come to saying he was proud of me but I know he is, somewhere. So thank you to the Sunnyside community for honoring him with this recognition.
Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019, became a member of the Sunnyside Los Mezquites Cross Country Hall of Fame in 2021 and he was a member of the Amphi COVID-19 Blue Ribbon Committee. Contact Andy Morales at email@example.com