Anchorage’s Brian Morris trains year-round with one goal in mind.
“To be the best in the state,” he said.
The senior sprinter is one of the brightest stars on the Bettye Davis East High track and field team this year and is having a sensational season to cap off his high school career.
He has won every 100- and 200-meter race he’s run so far this year; holds the top marks around the state this season in both events; and has also been the anchor on the Thunderbirds’ 4x100 and 4x200 boys relay teams, which have been among the best in Alaska, as well.
Despite that success, he still looks for areas of improvement.
“Where I’m trying to improve most is getting out of the blocks as aggressively as I can, not wait and just sprint full speed and be aggressive the entire way,” Morris said.
Unlike many of the other top track athletes in the state this year, he unfortunately doesn’t have the distinction of being a reigning state champion.
Even though Morris does have a state title in the 200 under his belt, that came when he was a sophomore. He competed as a junior last year but was hampered by a hamstring injury that lingered all season.
“That’s really hard for an athlete that wants to win,” said Christina Shurtleff, track and field coach at Bettye Davis East. “He had goals for that year, and to have to sit out a fair amount of the season and just kind of watch, he still stepped up as a captain then.”
He pushed through the pain and was still able to place sixth in the 100 and fifth in the 200. But he watched Chugiak’s Josh Bailey and South’s Cody Tirpack cross the finish line first in both events, respectively.
“The biggest thing for an athlete is not just can they perform when things are good, but how they come back when things are not good,” Shurtleff said.
The sting from not being able to defend his title in the 200 or perform at his best due to injury stuck with Morris and motivated him all offseason.
“I was unhappy with my results last year and it’s more like a revenge season for me this year,” Morris said. “I want to come back and show Alaska and myself that I can break records and win states again.”
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Once he was healthy again, he dedicated himself to the sport by training even harder and investing in both recovery and injury prevention methods.
“He has been in the gym, strength training, making sure that it doesn’t happen again,” Shurtleff said.
He has his sights set on breaking the state record for both the 100 and 200, but believes that the latter is the more attainable goal.
The record times for both races was the wallpaper on his phone until recently because he wanted them as a constant reminder of what he was striving for.
“The (100 meter) state record is 10.76 by Colton Herman and the 200 (meter) is 21.90,” Morris said. “I think I’m a better 200 runner than 100 runner because my start needs some improvement and I’ve been working on it all year.”
Pulling away from the competition
A big reason that he’s able to leave so many of his competitors behind on the track is because of his incredible acceleration, which helps him build up more speed as he goes.
“He has a really explosive start but he really pulls away in those last 40 meters,” Shurtleff said. “He increases his acceleration further than most people. Most people are hanging on and he’s still going faster.”
Even though he doesn’t believe he would’ve won state as a freshman in 2020, he was still disappointed when the championship meet was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Freshman year was more of a learning experience for me just to get used to the environment of high school track,” Morris said.
While he’s been competing in track since seventh grade, his desire to be the fastest dates back to elementary school.
“We had this little competition of ‘Who is the fastest in the school,’ ” Morris said. “I was fastest at one point and then one of my friends was faster, and I wanted to be No. 1 again.”
That urge to be the fastest hasn’t subsided since then. “I think I’m just naturally competitive,” he said.
Morris didn’t play any other sports growing up, and after he injured his pinky playing football last year as a junior, he plans on sticking to track exclusively.
His main motivation for running is an innate drive to compete and improve.
“This is all really for myself and to prove how well I can get and well others can push me,” he said.
Looking farther down the lane
Some of Morris’ other goals for his senior season included winning state in both of his events and helping his team win the two relays he competes in as well.
As the anchor of the relay teams, he sometimes feels the pressure of having everyone’s hopes of winning on his shoulders, but Morris is confident every time it’s his turn to carry the baton that he’s going to come through and deliver.
“My top-end speed is much better than my accelerator so I know I’ll chase some people down,” he said.
As far as top competition goes, he views South High’s Tirpack and Chugiak’s Semaj Walker as two of the runners who will push him this year. There’s also Bartlett’s Marquez Nevitte, who has finished second behind Morris in several races this season — including at last week’s Varsity Invite, which replaced the Anchorage Invitational at Dimond this year due to the weather.
After besting his competition within the confines of The Dome sports complex in Anchorage, Morris is looking forward to staying in stride now that the outdoor portion of the season is set to get underway this week with the annual Palmer Relays, the last big meet ahead of state later this month.
“During the indoor season I had a lot of momentum, and it’s all because of my training, and I just want to keep it up for the outdoor season,” Morris said.