The move proved to be a wise one for Morris, who hit full stride on the track quickly, helping lead the Wildcats to their first-ever region title.
On Monday, Morris signed a letter of intent to join the track and field team at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C.
“First, what caught my attention was the small classes they have. I looked at that first,” Morris explained of his decision. “I like the campus size, and I like the way the campus looks. The track team is pretty good and the coach was really trying to get me in there, so I decided to go there.”
It required similar persuading to convince Morris to leave his golf clubs behind for his senior year.
“My dad made me play golf so that’s why I was playing but this past year, coach [Adrian] Steele talked me into running track,” Morris said. “He told me he’d get me into college so I just ran for him, and it turned out pretty good.”
Steele kept his promise and Morris, a gifted runner and jumper, helped Woodland reach new heights.
“He is a natural sprinter,” said Steele, the Wildcats head coach. “I was very fortunate to get [Morris] out there because he played a huge part in our region championship — the school’s first region championship for the boys.”
The Woodland coach noted that Morris placed in the 100- and 200-meter dash as well as the long jump, adding to the Wildcats’ tally for their Region 7-AAAA victory.
“If the handoffs would have been correct, we probably would have been first or second, probably went to state in the 4-by-1. But just to get him out there was just a huge advantage,” Steele added of the 6-foot-1 Morris. “He’s a kid that’s a raw, natural, talented sprinter so I’m excited to see how much better he can be. Everything he did this year — I didn’t get to coach him as much because I only had him for one year — everything was just natural and raw. He has the high knees, he has the lean frame and just the natural speed. With a coach that has him all yearlong and working with that fame and that ability, I’m excited to see what he can do.”
Morris was not sure what he would be able to do early on, but Steele knew right away.
“He was nervous in the beginning, very scared and terrified about how far he’d be able to run and what events he could do,” Steele recalled. “We lined him up and I put him against Derrick Hardin, one of my fastest sprinters, and he was right there so I knew immediately that he could run. And then when I saw him in a practice one day, stretching out and running 200s, I knew that he’d be a talent, and he was my fastest 200 runner. [He] had a time of 22.8 [seconds], which is amazing for a kid who’s never run track before.
“Then I lined him up in the blocks and he ran [an] 11.26 in the 100, and that’s with not even knowing how to come out of blocks. And the same goes with the 4-by-4; I knew he had that long stride and he was graceful when he ran. [I] put him in the 4-by-4 and he was running 51-second splits, and that’s rare for somebody who comes out their senior year to be able to do some of the things that Daryel did.”
It did not come easy but was well worth it, the Lenoir-Rhyne signee said.
“[There were] hard practices, but it paid off in the end. It was real fun; it was really fun,” said Morris, who listed his unleashing of three furious dunks during Senior Night for the basketball team as one of his favorite memories. “That was a good time,” he added of Senior Night.
The Daily Tribune News’ all-county selection in basketball and track is looking forward to “a lot more exposure to track and basketball, if I do play, and just the whole college experience.”