State track: Youth movement paves way for sophomore duo of Morton, Kafer
By BRANDON HURLEY
DES MOINES –
His father’s legacy would cast a long shadow on any next of kin, but Greene County’s Carter Morton is quickly making a name for himself.
Nearly three decades later and Carter’s dad, Chad, finds himself on the outside looking in, as the first year Greene County track and field head coach, leading a pair of sophomores into this week’s state meet, May 17-19 in Des Moines.
The younger Morton was the star of the 2A state qualifying meet in Manson last Thursday, recreating some of the glory of his father, who’s a five-time state champion in his own right.
Carter captured a pair of gold medals to assure a spot at this year’s state meet, joining classmate Colby Kafer, who also qualified in two events. The youthful pair is carrying the torch for the Ram track program this week in Des Moines, and hope to surprise a few people. Morton once again cleared 6-02 in the high jump last week, tying his own school record to gain victory while he captured first place in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 57.42. Fellow sophomore Colby Kafer qualified in the long jump and the 200-meter dash. Kafer was second in last Thursday’s long jump with a leap of 20.75 while he also placed second in the 200-meter with a time of 23.72.
For coach Morton, it was a tense few moments last week anxiously watching his son compete for a spot at state. The elder Morton won five state titles at CAL-Latimer before running at Graceland College. The success led him to a coaching career, a lengthy officiating stint and into the top spot at Greene County.
Carter’s successful night last Thursday didn’t come as easy as the final results indicate, and had his dad on pins and needles.
“Like any parent, when your kid is out there, your stomach kind of goes up into your throat. In the high jump, he had to go three attempts on pretty much the last three jumps,” Chad Morton said. “It’s pretty special. When it comes time to perform, it seems like he rises to the occasion and he likes that.
I leave it all on him, the kid works his butt off and he works hard for it and it means a lot to him.”
Kafer qualified with the 24th fastest 200-meter time in the field while Morton qualified with the 16th fastest 400-meter hurdle time. Mason City Beckman Catholic’s Mark Brown enters the state meet with the fastest 400 hurdle time of 54.99 while PCM’s Noah Anderson is tops in the 200-meter at 21.66.
Morton is tied for seventh in the high jump with his qualifying jump of 6-02. Drake Relays champion Miles Rupiper of Kuemper Catholic cleared 6-06 to qualify and is the state-leader with a career-best jump of 6-10. Kafer qualified with the 21st furthest leap in the long jump. West Sioux’s Jake Lynott qualified with the top jump at 22-04.75.
With no upperclassmen making the trip to the vaunted Blue Oval, it’s up to Kafer and Morton to set the tone for the future of the Greene County program. The young Rams made continuous progress throughout the year, with it all coming to a head at the state qualifying meet.
“It’s just good experience for both of them,” Morton said. “Even at districts, we had some kids medals that didn’t medal last year. So I think that excited them and hopefully they can come down and get into that environment and want to be there and work hard in the off season.
Both these sophomores work really hard for all their sports. It’s just good to get kids down there. And for Carter and Colby both to get another event and not just one, it looks bright.”
Both Kafer and Morton are making a return trip to the state meet after qualifying as freshman. Kafer made his initial appearance in the 4x100-meter while Morton surprised and worked his way into the high jump, neither placing on the medal stand. They hope to make a bigger splash this time around.
“I think (last year’s) experience will help a lot. Colby, especially. He would’ve given his right leg to get another event down there,” coach Morton said. “That was one of his goals, not just one, but two events. And with Carter, having that experience to be able to high jump down there and make opening height last year, (that helps). Just the way he talks right now, he has a lot of confidence.”
The key to excelling at one of the most prestigious events of the year, on one of the nation’s most famous track and field venue, is keeping a level head and trusting what got you to that point. Harnessing the progression from throughout the year is pivotal, but also taking advantage of the moment is instrumental as well, Morton said.
“It takes just one jump. Colby’s still early in his jumping career and learning how to do the long jump, but he’s come along really well, especially for the weather we’ve had,” the coach said. “They’re both two years into their event and have two more years. They’re progressing at a good speed and good rate.”
Kafer will lead things off in Thursday’s 2A long jump finals at 2 p.m. He’ll jump third in the first flight on the Drake Stadium infield. The sophomore will step onto the track a few hours later, running in lane eight of heat one in the Class 2A 200-meter dash preliminaries at 4:40 p.m. The event finals are set for 2:05 p.m. Saturday.
The boys high jump final begins at 2 p.m. Friday afternoon on the Drake Stadium infield. Morton will jump from the 15th spot. The starting height will be set at 5-09, a mark the sophomore should have little trouble clearing. He cleared 5-10 at the state meet last spring. He’ll also run out of lane eight in section two in the 400-meter hurdle finals set for 5 p.m. Friday.
“Carter jumped his (personal best) five times this year,” his dad said. “I don’t know if very many athletes can say they did that five times. Now he’s upset because he jumped his PR five times and didn’t get over that, but I think it’s more of a mental game for him.”
The 2018 Iowa High School co-ed state track meet began at 9 a.m. Thursday. It will conclude Saturday afternoon.
Follow along for live updates on Twitter (@brandonjhurley).