Greene County's Jackson Morton (second from right) finished runner-up in the Class 2A 110-meter hurdle final Saturday, May 21 in Des Moines while he also helped anchor the Rams' bronze medal-winning shuttle hurdle.  BRANDON HURLEY | JEFFERSON HERALD

State Track & Field: Morton, Greene County hurdlers snatched impressive podium finishes

Managing Editor

DES MOINES – The greatest group of hurdlers in Greene County history struggled as the 2022 spring season first started.

But it all clicked at the perfect moment Saturday at Drake Stadium.
Anchored by Greene County record holder Jackson Morton, the Rams took home a pair of medals at the state meet Saturday in Des Moines. Morton snatched a silver in the Class 2A 110-meter hurdles while the shuttle hurdle relay he helped anchor captured a bronze. Both performances were the best in school history, coming amongst a field littered with talent.

“It was a perfect storm for how well they ran,” Greene County head coach Chad Morton said. “Things had to work out just right.”

Knowing they’d at some point match up against the best athlete in state history, the Rams were in for a challenging year. But, Greene County, boasting an experienced quartet of their own anchored by school-record holder Jackson Morton knew they could make some noise come state. And surprise they did, as Greene County’s Landyn Venteicher, Nate Black, Bryce Stalder and Morton qualified for Saturday’s shuttle hurdle final with the sixth-fastest time on Thursday (1:02.08).
Morton had run at the Drake Relays and state before, re-setting his own 110-meter hurdles record several times throughout the year, while fellow seniors Stalder and Black each boast plenty of leaping ability. Both Stalder and Black qualified for state in the long jump and high jump, respectively. Morton qualified in the 110-meter highs and the 400-meter lows while Venteicher, running the opening leg of the shuttle hurdle, was making his state meet debut.


The path to the podium certainly wasn’t an easy one.

Spirit Lake’s Jack Latham had set the bar high, shattering the state record in the 110-meter hurdle prelims Friday afternoon, running a 13.74, which was a full .11 faster than the previous mark of 13.85 set by Ankeny’s Riley Moss. Latham was the defending Class 2A and Drake Relays 110-meter hurdle champion, while he was flanked by Ethan Stecker, Jake Cornwall and Drew Alger.

Coach Morton believed, despite Greene County’s early season struggles in the shuttle hurdle, their experience would take over. He knew performing Saturday was a blessing as well, allowing his athletes to get a better feel for the state meet even though Stalder, Black and Morton had all been there before.

The Rams stuck with Spirit Lake for most of Saturday’s final, finishing third with a time of 1:00.73, only behind second place Central Decatur (1:00.64) and the championship-winning Indians (1:00.5). Greene County’s bronze-medal clinching relay was nearly two seconds faster than their preliminary time.

Morton believes the success was a due to a combination of things, with good fortune as one of the ingredients.

“There’s a little luck when you’re running hurdles and not hitting them,” the coach said. “It doesn’t happen all the time, but I think things worked out. They were up for the challenge and they had the confidence in what they were doing. I’m happy to see them have that success.”

Greene County’s quartet of Black, Jaxon Warnke, Stalder and Morton finished fourth in last year’s shuttle hurdle finals with a time of 1:01.65.


Jackson Morton’s runner-up finish to Latham – who again broke the state all-time record in Saturday’s 110-meter finals (13.81) – was quite impressive as well. While Latham secured back-to-back state titles in the highs (he snatched four total championships throughout the weekend), Morton tallied the highest finish of his career and the best in school history.

Jackson qualified for Saturday’s finals with the third-fastest time in prelims (14.8) while Latham shattered the state record with a 13.74
Morton was back at it again Saturday, producing a time of 14.64, just a tick off his school-record of 14.64, securing the silver medal. West Monona’s Brad Bellis was third (14.78) while South Hamilton’s Tanner Blue (14.95) and Clear Lake’s Zeke Nelson (15.24) rounded out the top five.

Coach Morton was thrilled with the outcome not only because his son continued to improve throughout his career, but he managed to recover after falling in the 400-meter hurdles the day before, an event in which he placed 23rd out of 24 runners with a time of 1:02.43. Coach Morton was worried lingering effects would impact Jackson, but the youngster proved there was no need for concern.

Morton impressed Saturday, out-running much of the field while somewhat sticking with Latham, which has become a difficult task for anyone. Greene County’s coach was ecstatic following the race, knowing Morton performed at his best in his fifth and final hurdle event of the weekend.

“(Jackson) knew going into it that (Latham) is elite,” Morton said. “For him to be able to turn around and not just compete against the best in the state but also have 10 (hurdles) in front of you that tell you you’re not going to make it, that’s pretty impressive.”

The coach was immediately concerned following Jackson’s mishap Friday in the 400-meter lows, but his son didn’t seem rattled.

“He handled it better than I thought he would,” coach Morton said. “He didn’t seem shook up and he knew his body wasn’t going to let him (down).

We made sure he got a couple small portions of protein and got his body going again.”
Morton’s best finish in the state 110-meter hurdles prior to last weekend was fourth last spring with a time of 15.18.


Stalder finished 14th overall in Thursday’s Class 2A long jump with a top leap of 20-03.75. Hinton’s Beau DeRocher narrowly edged out Clarinda’s Isaac Jones for the state title with a winning-leap of 22-04.75. Black finished in a tie for 19th in the 2A high jump Friday afternoon, clearing 5-10. Williamsburg’s Derek Weisskopf won the state championship by clearing 6-07.

All four of Greene County’s state qualifying athletes were seniors, which means they have set the stage for a new crop of athletes to compete at Drake Stadium next year.

“I told our kids, this isn’t what this group looked like as freshmen,” coach Morton said. “It’s attainable for them, too but they have to be willing to put in time in the weight room and be willing to get faster throughout their high school career.
I think these seniors have done that and it’s a great road map for these underclassmen. They need to have in open mind and work hard and good things will come. I think they have hope (this) can possibly be them one day.”

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