Track and Field: GOING WITH THE PURPLE AND GOLD
By Brandon Hurley
The premier test of athleticism awaits Carter Morton when he sets foot on the Northern Iowa campus next fall.
Challenges have rarely fazed the Greene County senior, which is why he has the collegiate decathlon in his sights.
The Greene County high jump record holder signed his official letter of intent to join the University of Northern Iowa track and field program next fall during a ceremony Jan. 8 in Jefferson. He’s poised to make waves in the high jump, but also in track’s ultimate test of strength and endurance.
The current UNI roster features a heavy dose of former Iowa high school track stars, which helped Morton make his decision. He was also considering an offer from Central College, which made the decision difficult for the stand out Ram.
“It all comes down to a gut feeling,” Morton said.
He was captivated by the Panthers’ camaraderie and their dedicated coaching staff. The UNI program is built for continued success. They’ve got one hell of an indoor facility as well, the famed UNI Dome in Cedar Falls.
“Probably the culture,” Morton said. “I feel like everybody knows everybody and all the teammates. That’s what I want. I just want to be friends with everybody. And they have certain coaches for every single spot. I think I’m going to excel at what I’m going to do there.”
Morton has qualified for the Iowa High School state meet all three of his years in Jefferson, highlighted by a bronze medal in the high jump a year ago, while he has also made significant waves at the Drake Relays, finishing sixth in the 2019 high jump.
Northern Iowa is a Division I track program that competes in the Missouri Valley Conference. The 2019-20 Panthers’ squad is predicted to finish second in the league, carrying with them a long tradition over the years.
Morton becomes the second Greene County athlete in a month to commit to a Division I school, joining football teammate Tyler Miller, who signed to by at Iowa State University in December.
Morton’s general intrigue with the decathlon sparked a moment of inspiration when chatting with his future coaching staff. Despite the 10-event grueling test of will power, Morton believes he can have some success in the next four years.
“I have to new a few new events, but that won’t be bad,” he said. “(The) new things (are what attract me to the decathlon). It’s something else to try.”
The decathlon entails the high jump (which should be little trouble for Greene County’s greatest high jumper), the long jump, javelin (an entirely new event), the shot put, discus, 110-meter hurdles, the 100-meter dash, the 400-meter dash and the agonizingly long 1,500-meter run.
Morton’s dad, Chad, is also his track coach at Greene County High School.
The father feels an extra ounce of pride knowing that he, too, ran track at the collegiate level, a number of years ago at what is now Graceland University.
“I’m happy for him,” Chad said. “He wanted to compete in some sport in college and for him to get the opportunity to do that is special for him.”
The elder Morton admits it took his son a little longer than anticipated to latch on to track and field. Carter has also excelled at football, where he set a number of career and single season records for the Rams, as well as basketball. He’s the team’s leading scorer this winter, and led the team in steals and assists last year. The multi-sport star really developed into one of the top athletes in Greene County history.
“To go for track is more special. I’m excited about that just because I was a good track athlete and but it was never really his love for a while, but it has become his love since.
For him to go wherever he wants to go is the most important to me, no matter where he goes. UNI embraced him and excited for him to be there.”
Carter’s commitment to the Panthers is a shining light for a quickly growing Greene County track and field program as well. It’s an example that coach Morton will use for years to come. It shows students the potential that’s out there.
“It shows that we (have) some good athletes and I think there (are) other opportunities for kids to go on and (run) track in college if they choose,” Morton said. “We’ve had some really good athletes and I know for a fact, Carter’s worked in the offseason on his high jump and has gone to some clinics and stuff to improve himself. So for him to be able to do that and get benefit from it, and for it to pay off like you’d want it to pay off is pretty special as well.”
The college decathlon will be quite the change for Carter, his dad said, especially in the events he’s never even competed in. Morton’s typically competed in the high jump as well as the 110-meter and 400-meter hurdles. The numerous field events will be an interesting wrinkles.
“He’s not looking forward to 1,500 I can tell you that. But I think he’ll do fine there,” Morton said. “He’s messed around with Andy Carmen throwing (the) shot put. And he said he threw 36 (feet) last year just messing around. So he’s got potential.
But even the leap in competition may give Carter some fits in his best events when he arrives on the Cedar Falls campus. That’s before you sprinkle in the completely new events like the pole vault.
“It’s college colleges hurdles, and it’s college shot put,” coach Morton said. “And they say the pole vault is the most pressing thing that you need to get better at. But the high jump coach at UNI is also the pole vault coach, so I think Carter’s looking forward to learning how to pole vault. If you’re looking forward to something instead of dreading it, it’s going to help you out in the future, too.”