Clint Johnson stood on the hill outside the shot put ring during the Class 5A state track and field meet on Friday at Cessna Stadium. In his 13th season as the Shawnee Mission South throws coach, he wasn’t watching one of his own athletes.
He was there to watch Leavenworth senior Willie Morrison try to break Johnson’s state record of 69 feet, 1 1/2 inches, which he set in Class 6A at the 1980 state meet.
He had seen Morrison throw before, and had seen the quickness and strength. And Johnson knew his record was about to be beaten.
Morrison threw 69-4 1/2, the best in state history, which also obliterated the 5A meet record of 63-6 3/4.
“It was fun to see,” said Johnson, 52. “ He’s been looking really good all year. He’s incredibly quick, and he’s fun to watch.
“Everybody wants their records to last forever. That’s not going to happen. I sort of feel that the torch has been passed.”
It looked as though Ottawa’s Kord Ferguson would break the record in 2014, his senior season, but he went 64-7 1/2 at state to set a 4A record.
“There’s been a good group of throwers that have come through here in the last couple years in shot and discus,” said Johnson, who also owns the 6A discus record (200-3). “It’s been fun to watch. The way Willie opened up his season with a couple 68s, I thought, ‘well, this is the year it’s gone.’ He did it in dramatic fashion at the state meet.”
Morrison also won the discus at 185-5. In 2014 he won the shot put (61-3 1/4) and discus (176-11).
Morrison, who has signed with Indiana, wasn’t aware of either the 5A or the state’s best records until this year.
Of course, this is the same thrower who entered his junior season with a personal best of 49 feet and didn’t even like the shot put because he didn’t consider himself to be good at it.
But his view of the shot changed drastically after he went to the 2014 Kansas Relays. While there he watched Indiana throws coach Cory Martin compete in a professional event.
Morrison immediately noticed that Martin’s stance was wide. Instead of both feet toward the middle back, Morrison started with his left foot in the middle and his right foot off to the side.
“So when I make that big kick around, it makes my body torque up, so when I come around, it explodes,” Morrison said. “The next week I tried it. I broke 60 feet.… Once you break 60, it’s easy to go over the barriers.”
When he was told about Johnson’s state record and the 5A record this season, Morrison was confident he could break both.
“Sixty-three (in 5A)? Oh, I knew I could break that easily because in the summer I threw 64,” Morrison said.
“I was planning on breaking the record last week,” Morrison said. “It was awesome. Just a great feeling to break the record. I’ve been working hard all year.”