After a controversial ruling disqualified him from his strongest event, De La Salle hurdler Marquis Morris earned state gold anyway.
By MITCH STEPHENS | Contributor
Marquis Morris could have thrown his spikes, kicked a hurdle, spat an expletive — or at least some Gatorade.
But instead, the De La Salle junior maintained his cool, refocused and simply attacked the high hurdles.
He was rewarded three weeks later with a coveted state championship.
Morris won the 110 high hurdles in the 96th CIF State Track and Field Championships June 1 at Veterans Stadium on the campus of Buchanan High in Clovis in a lifetime best of 13.90 seconds.
Even with the rest of the field at the fifth hurdle, Morris used his superior form, speed and 6-foot-3, 170-pound frame to pull away over runner-up Millikan-Long Beach junior Misana Viltz (14.08). Bellarmine’s Jalen Wright was fifth in 14.24.
It was De La Salle’s first state hurdles title. Afterward, Morris was beaming — smiling from ear-to-ear.
“Ecstatic,” Morris said. “I can’t believe it. From the starting line I was so nervous I could feel my heart in my ears. I took a deep breath after the third hurdle and pushed all the way through. Just like my coaches told me to do.”
Morris had to take a deep breath during the North Coast Section Tri-Valley Meet at Granada in Livermore.
There he was disqualified in the 300 hurdles for a trail leg violation called “hooking.”
Morris was the national leader in the event at the time at 37.19 and just needed to cruise victory. He didn’t find out about the DQ until later in the meet.
“I was devastated,” Morris said. “I couldn’t believe it. I honestly didn’t know what I did wrong. I had spent so much time working at the event and just like that it was gone.”
The De La Salle coaching staff didn’t know what Morris did wrong either. They heard the interpretation but disagreed that is what Morris did.
But unlike the NFL or the last two minutes of NBA games, there’s no reply at high school track meets. No protest to file.
De La Salle assistant T.J. Ward just shook his head when asked to comment on the ruling three weeks later. Two seasons earlier, the state leader in the same event Michael Barton, also from De La Salle, was disqualified at the same meet and track for the same violation.
Both Barton and Morris had never been called for the infraction before.
“Bogus,” Ward said. “Very tough call. It’s not like either of these guys had just learned the hurdles. But what are you going to do? You have to move on.”
Morris said simply he took the devastation from the call and shifted that energy to the 110 hurdles.
“It just fueled my fire,” he said. “Maybe in some way it was sort of a blessing. It gave me more time to focus and compete on the 110s.”
The winning 300 hurdles time at state of 37.06 by Serra-Gardena senior Lloyd Sicard was slightly faster than Morris’ best. Morris, a receiver and defensive back on the De La Salle football team, wasn’t going to do the “what if” game after winning one state title.
“My goal is to win both hurdles next year,” he said. “And maybe run on a relay or two with my teammates.”
That’s music to the ears of Ward, who encouraged Morris to play football to toughen him up and gain a “brotherhood” spirit. It’s all paid off.
Morris is a track athlete first and football player second, which is rarely the case at De La Salle. But Ward believes playing both sports has benefitted Morris greatly.
“He’s an exceptionally hurdler,” Ward said. “He’s a natural. He’s going to do great things in the sport for a long time.”
Mitch Stephens is a national columnist for MaxPreps.com.
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