For new track coach, location is everything

Published 9:47 am Friday, May 21, 2021

As resource officer and coach, Morris is ‘perfectly placed’

Daylen Morris couldn’t be in a better location for his new position.

As the school resource officer at Boyle County, Morris interacts with many of the school’s students on a daily basis. As the school’s track and field coach, he wants as many athletes as he can get into his program.

A program that regularly competes for championships has built its success in large part on attracting athletes of all stripes, and Morris has been able to continue that.

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A roster rebuild was required after the 2020 season was lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the need to recruit new athletes and to re-recruit some others. Morris was perfectly placed for that, right in the heart of the school.

“It’s easy because I get to see them,” Morris said. “With my position as SRO, my goal is to just build relationships … with all of them, not just the athletes. SRO is a good position to build a great relationship.”

Morris estimates that 75 to 80 percent of the athletes on Boyle’s boys and girls teams are new to track and field, and that puts the Rebels in a pretty good position as well.

The Boyle boys are the two-time defending Class AA champions — though it has been nearly two years since they last hoisted the trophy — and they are positioned to compete for another championship in the coming weeks.

“We’re coming along at the right time of year,” Morris said. “I think they can really challenge. It’ll be hard as a team because we’re just not as deep and we don’t have any hurdlers. The events that we’re in, we’re going to have to really score just because we’re not as deep as the past teams have been.”

The Boyle girls are a younger group, but they also have achieved success this season and have athletes who could make an impact at the regional and state levels.

“They’re improving. We’ve just got to get more competitive with the younger girls,” Morris said.

Track and field typically has the largest or second-largest roster among Boyle’s athletic teams, and Morris’ first step in restocking that roster was to look to the players on the other team of similar size.

“We’ve gotten a lot of the football guys out, so the boys team has really come together,” he said.

He said he shared the words of a former NFL star as part of his recruiting pitch to football players.

“Reggie Bush said, ‘How do you get faster for football? Run track,’” Morris said. “If you want to run faster, you’ve got to sprint.

“I’ve explained to them how it could help their form in football. Everything transitions to the summer work, and those times that you may get run down or that you’ve got close to getting run down, now you’ve run the 100 meters and the 200 meters, and the football field’s a lot shorter than both of those races.”

Morris said he started his recruiting efforts with one player, senior running back-linebacker Will McDaniel, who rushed for more than 1,200 yards and was one of the Rebels’ top tacklers. McDaniel had been part of the track team in 2019, but he was behind other sprinters and didn’t compete at the state meet.

“You get the star athlete and everybody follows,” Morris said.

Boyle football coach Justin Haddix has encouraged his players to compete in track and field, and Morris said football players make up a huge chunk of the boys roster.

“It’s great, especially when you have the football coach on your side,” Morris said. “He encourages them to come out and compete, (because) if his guys are out there, they’re competing in the offseason.

“When you come off a state championship or you have the expectation of winning a state championship in football, when you can get those guys, their only expectation in any sport is ‘We’re going to come out to win.’”

Morris said he’s grateful for the support of Haddix and other Boyle coaches whose athletes have joined his program.

One of them, Molly Wise, is one of three Rebels who have broken school records this season. Wise, a junior who is on the volleyball team, broke the 5-year-old school record in the girls triple jump April 27 with a leap of 36 feet, 3 1/2 inches.

School records also have been set this season by:

• Hennessy Ison, a junior who was fourth in the Class AA girls shot put at the 2019 state meet. Ison broke her own record April 17 with a throw of 37-9 3/4 and she has 12 of the top 15 throws in school history.

• Andrew Hardwick, a sophomore from the football team who bested an 11-year-old mark in the boys shot put Saturday with a throw of 53-1 that was about 3 feet better than the championship-winning throw of 2019.

Of course, Boyle has many other athletes who don’t have records but who do rank at or near the top of their region. The Rebels’ areas of strength include boys and girls sprints, boys relays and boys and girls field events.

“Our field events are doing really well,” Morris said.

Morris, a 2007 Danville graduate who earned state meet medals in jumps and sprints, was an assistant coach at Mercer County under Terry Yeast before joining Christina Rivera’s Boyle staff as an assistant in 2020. Rivera, a first-year coach last year, left the area and Morris moved up to head coach.

“I just wanted to take the opportunity to help these kids and really do what I love in coaching track,” Morris said.

Morris said he learned a great deal from longtime Mercer coach Terry Yeast and got good advice from Brent Wagner, whose teams won five state championships over a four-year period before he resigned following the 2019 season.

“The first thing he said was, ‘Don’t be better than me,’” Morris laughed and said. “We had dinner after I took the job, and the best thing he said was … ‘Don’t be either one of us. Make it your own thing.’ That was the best advice he’s given.”