FROM THE BLEACHERS TO THE BLUE OVAL
By BRANDON HURLEY
Turkey legs will forever link the track-crazed Morton family.
The latest edition of Drake Relays week presents a moment to cherish forever. What seemed like a fun, family tradition many years ago has transformed into a rare story of success and opportunity.
From the metal bleachers to the Blue Oval - the Mortons have arrived.
Chad and Deb, parents of Jackson and Carter, began taking their two sons to the nationally-renowned track and field event as youngsters, kick-starting an enthusiasm for a storied sport. It was a hobby which carried over into young adulthood.
But, before little Carter (a 2020 Greene County graduate) and Jackson (a Greene County junior) could make their way into Drake Stadium in Des Moines, they needed to secure a delicious turkey leg from the food stand just a few steps outside the front gates. Once they had their delectable meats in hand, they then could make their way into the stands.
The Mortons’ pre-meet nutrition is likely a little different now, but their passion has never wavered.
The father-son trio will have their say at the 111th edition of the Drake Relays this weekend in a unique scenario. Fourth-year Greene County boys’ track and field head coach Chad Morton along with sons Jackson, a Ram junior, as well as University of Northern Iowa freshman, Carter will each make an appearance at Drake Stadium in Des Moines April 22-24.
The eldest Morton, Chad, won five state titles in the late 1980s as a member of the CAL-Latimer High School track and field program, which later blossomed into a officiating and coaching career.
Carter set the Greene County school record in the high jump (6-08) which led to multiple Drake Relays appearances while he also held the 110-meter hurdles record before surrendering the honor to the younger Jackson earlier this month.
Carter’s track and field success earned a scholarship with the UNI Panther track program, where he’s already proven to be an important piece, placing fifth at the indoor Missouri Valley Conference Championships in both the high jump and the heptathlon while also earning a spot at Saturday’s Drake Relays university high jump (1:45 p.m.).
A few decades packed with a whirlwind of track meets across the state of Iowa have culminated into three days at the tail-end of April 2021, a rewarding grind the Morton family won’t soon forget.
“It’s a pretty cool thing for our family. It’s pretty special,” Chad said. “We are very, very blessed and very lucky for it to happen.”
Jackson is made his first appearance at the Drake Relays, qualifying in the high school portion of the 110-meter hurdles as well as the anchor of 2A’s top shuttle hurdle relay.
Jackson has improved immensely in the 110-meter high hurdles since his freshman season in 2019 (the 2020 schedule was wiped from the books due to the Coronavirus), producing a then career-best 110-meter hurdle time of 17.07 two years ago.
He’s nearly cut two seconds off that time in roughly a month’s worth of actual competition since, breaking the Greene County school-record twice this spring, placing himself second in Class 2A and top 11 in all of Iowa. He first slid past his older brother’s record mark of 15.39 seconds April 8 in Van Meter, finishing with a 15.33 before besting it again a few days later with a 15.11 in Saydel on April 11.
Chad said Jackson’s biggest asset is an increased emphasis on strength training. That, and a desire to excel at the hurdles - learning, growing and adapting in one of track and field’s most grueling events has certainly rocketed Jackson up the ranks.
The anxiety begins Thursday morning, as the Mortons hope to make some history.