Boys track and field: Multi-talented Morgan led the way for all-county team
By Mike London
SALISBURY — It was a 2021 boys track and field season in Rowan County that soared and sizzled.
It was a terrific comeback for the county in the sport after COVID train-wrecked a promising 2020 season.
This season brought South Rowan’s first county title — ever.
East Rowan and North Rowan couldn’t keep pace with South’s special crew of distance runners in the county meet, but they claimed their respective conference championships.
North’s Kendrell Goodes won the 1A state championship in the high jump with a leap that would’ve won the 4A State Meet. North’s Tsion Delaney was a regional champion hurdler and a state runner-up. South’s Noah Julian was a marvelous, multi-event distance runner who spearheaded the Raiders’ drive to a county title. Salisbury’s Theo Oglesby piled up a long and strong string of victories in the throws.
All worthy candidates, but the Post’s choice for Rowan Country Male Track Athlete of the Year is recent Salisbury graduate Christian Morgan.
Morgan was the single most impressive athlete in May’s Rowan County Championships with three individual championships, plus a flying anchor leg on a relay winner.
Morgan overcame a hamstring injury to extend his success to the regional and state levels. In the 2A State Championships, he posted a second, a third and a sixth for 17 of Salisbury’s 27 points.
As impressive as his speed was Morgan’s versatility. He couldn’t be labeled as a jumper, a distance man or a thrower. He was a combo hurdler/sprinter and produced breath-taking performances in both arenas.
“Christian’s speed is a natural gift,” Salisbury coach Todd Parker said. “But hurdling, that’s a craft, and he works very hard at it. He was willing to put in lots of hours after practice to be a special hurdler.”
The county may have been deeper in hurdling talent than any other area. North’s Delaney and Tyshaun Pratt were exceptional, while Utah Brown, who just missed qualifying for the 3A State Championships in both hurdling events, was Carson’s best track man.
“There were some really good hurdlers out there this year,” Parker said.
Still, Morgan won the 110 and 300 hurdles by relatively comfortable margins in the Rowan County Championships. He took the 300 by nearly two seconds.
In the 200 meters, Morgan also faced substantial competition to be the king of the county. Opponents included Pratt, North’s county 100 champ Amari McCarthur and North’s Devin Kendall, who was a conference champ in the 100 and 200. Also entered in the county 200 were West speedsters Peter Simpson, another conference champ, and Malachi Smith, who was the dominant individual in the North Piedmont Conference Championships. Morgan ran 22.94 to prevail.
With Morgan blazing on the anchor leg, Salisbury was also able to edge North in the 4×200 in the county meet. That was no small feat. The Cavaliers won that event in their conference.
“Christian was the one who would get those 4×200 guys together and get them ready,” Parker said.
Morgan showed vast potential and promise as a freshman. He was county champion in the 300 hurdles in the spring of 2018 and ran on the winning 4×200 team. He placed second behind West phenom Jalen Houston in the 110 hurdles.
There were setbacks for Morgan after that. Injuries in 2019, then COVID in 2020.
“COVID killed us,” Parker said. “We had a deep team that could have competed at the state level.”
Morgan kept working through it all and had impressive showings on the AAI circuit.
Then he was ready when high school track finally returned in 2021, late, but with close to a normal season of competition.
While he is swift enough that he may eventually focus on the 200 or even the 400 dashes in college, Morgan’s first love is definitely the hurdles.
The challenge for the athlete with regard to the hurdles is to attack, to be aggressive, to accelerate instead of slowing down as he approaches the obstacle. He can’t spend any excess time in the air floating and he has to get his lead leg back on the ground — “snapping the hurdle — as quickly as possible, while continuing to build speed.
“With the hurdles it’s not just, ‘Ok, kid, go run,'” Parker said. “You’ve got to make those steps precise. There’s a lot of work involved.”
Morgan was flying high after his powerful performance in the Rowan County Championships in mid-May, but early June brought adversity. It was the last meet before the Central Carolina Conference Championships when Morgan was injured.
“He pulled up with a hamstring,” Parker said. “He tweaked it severely enough for us to be very concerned. The dream for track athletes is the state and we wanted to make sure Christian was healthy enough for the regional to qualify for states, so he didn’t compete in our conference meet. Not having Christian in the CCC meet probably cost us 30 to 35 points, but it wasn’t worth the risk of reinjuring the hamstring, so we did what we needed to do. He was ready to go for the regional.”
In the 2A Midwest Regional, held in Dobson on June 19, Morgan may not have been full-blast, but he finished second in the 110 hurdles, third in the 300 hurdles and fourth in the 200. The top four in each event advanced to the 2A State Championships at North Carolina A&T.
A week later, Morgan made two smiling trips to the podium at states. He ran 15.19 in the 110 hurdles for second place behind Lake Norman Charter’s Blaise Atkinson. Morgan ran a strong time. He would’ve placed high in 3A or 4A and would’ve won 1A. Morgan added a third in the 300 hurdles (40.62 seconds) and was sixth in the 200 in 22.74 seconds.
“The kid from Lake Norman Charter who won both hurdles was phenomenal,” Parker said. “But Christian had a great state meet. I couldn’t be happier for him. He’s a great athlete, but he’s a better person.”
Next for Morgan will be college academics and athletics at North Carolina A&T University, which has a storied track and field program. N.C. A&T’s men recently finished third, while the women’s team was fourth in the recent national championships, Those were the highest finishes of all-time for an HBCU school.
Morgan, who plans a career in law enforcement, hopes to make it as a walk-on, but he won’t be the average walk-on.
“They’ve got incredible athletes at A&T, including (national champion sprinter) Cambrea Sturgis, who I knew well from my time in Kannapolis,” Parker said. “But Christian is exceptional. He could do very well there.”
Athletes who finished first or second in an individual event in the Rowan County Championships or were on a winning relay team are automatically “All-County.”
The county meet was held in mid-May, with much of the season still ahead. A number of athletes who didn’t meet all-county criteria, won individual conference titles or shined at the state level. They were added to the Post’s team.
Coach of the Year
Tyler Downs, South
Utah Brown — 2nd in 300 hurdles in county, North Piedmont Conference champion 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles
Jack Nixon — 2nd in triple jump in county, NPC triple jump champion
Jacob Collins — 2nd in discus in county
Ashton Matthews — 2nd in shot put in county, NPC shot put champion
Malachi Smith — NPC champion long jump and 100, MVP of NPC Championships
Peter Simpson — NPC champion in 200
4×100 — County and NPC champs
4×200 — NPC champs
Isaac Hinceman — 2nd in 400 in county, NPC champion in 400
Seth Drake — County pole vault champ
Dominic Dale — 7th in discus 3A State Championships
4×800 — NPC champs
Tsion Delaney — Yadkin Valley Conference champ 300 hurdles, 1A MW Regional champ 110 hurdles, 2nd in 110 hurdles 1A State Championships
Tyshaun Pratt — County long jump champ, second in county in 110 hurdles, YVC champ in long jump and 110 hurdles, 5th 300 hurdles 1A State Championships
Kendrell Goodes — High jump champion in the county, the 1A MW Regional and the 1A State Championships
Amari McArthur — County champ in 100
Devin Kendall — second in 200 in county, YVC champion 100 and 200
Chauency Morris — YVC shot put champ
4×200 — YVC champions
4×100 — YVC champions
Christian Morgan — County champion in 200, 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles, 2nd in 110 hurdles in 2A State Championships, 3rd in 300 hurdles in 2A State Championships, 6th in 200 in 2A State Championships
Theo Oglesby — County champion in shot put and discus, Central Carolina Conference discus and shot champ, Won 2A MW Regional in discus, 7th in 2A State Championships in discus and shot put
Marcus Cook — CCC long jump champ, 3rd in triple jump 2A State Championships
Jayden Gibson — 2nd in 100 in county
4×200 — County champs
Noah Julian — County champ in 800 and 1600, CCC champ in 800 and 1600, 6th in 1600 in 2A State Championships
Eli Julian — County champ in 3200 and 2nd in 1600, CCC champ in 3200, 5th in 2A State Championships 3200
Marcus Holloman — County triple jump champ and 2nd in high jump in county, 7th in 2A State Championships in high jump
Cequane Lawing — County champion in 400
Landon Cromer — 2nd in 3200 in county
Nolan Miller — 2nd in 800 in county
Gabriel Pozyck — 2nd in long jump in county
Caleb Holmes — 2nd in pole vault in county
4×400 — County champs
4×800 — County champs, 6th in 2A State Championships
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