Graydon Morris crosses the finish line at the 2019 Foot Locker South Regional
Graydon Morris proved he was going to be good from the first time he suited up in an Aledo uniform. Freshman year, he ran 15:32.19 in his first meet at the Marcus I Invitational to finish sixth place. Later in the season, he would go on to finish third at the state meet.
His big accomplishment that year was a seventh place finish at Foot Locker South, qualifying for Foot Locker Nationals. Throughout his career, we would eventually see Morris go on to win three state cross country championships and qualify for Team USA for the World U20 Cross Country Championships .
Now, facing the last cross country meet of his high school career, he has qualified for his fourth Foot Locker Nationals, being the only male other than Jorge Torres (Wheeling, Illinois) to do so in the Kinney/Foot Locker Nationals history.
"After making it my freshman year, people began to talk about the possibility of me accomplishing that. I took note of it, but I tried to not let it cloud my judgement in workouts and races like state. My approach to training is to take it day by day because this sport is so unpredictable," Morris said.
At the South regional this year, he methodically made his way through the field and to the finish line to finish in 15:01 for third place. In his last two national meet performances, Morris turned in a second place national meet finish from sophomore year and then a third place finish last season.
"I hope to end my high school cross country career with a win at Balboa, but regardless I am so happy with the way things have gone."
Graydon Morris, Aledo HS Senior
He has learned that racing at the regional meet is slightly different from racing the national meet. Morris said "The mindset at the regional race is to advance. It doesn't have to be pretty or fast, just whatever it takes to get into the top ten."
The "whatever it takes" is managing getting out at the start and finding the way to the lead pack at the beginning of the race in the large regional field. When racing at the national meet, there are only 40 competitors, so racing and strategy between the two races are vastly different.
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This weekend, will be Morris' last opportunity to go for the win and already having three shots at it, this could be his best out of all and the best out of all of the competitors in the race. "To have three years of prior running experience on this course gives me reassurance and a calmness that's hard to describe. Experience plays such a big role in San Diego just with the challenges you're left to face once the gun goes off. Knowing how to negotiate the uphill and downhill can make or break your race," Morris said.
The experience from the last three years doesn't just give Morris an advantage with the knowledge of the course, but it also gives him insight on how to handle other challenges of national championship racing. "My strategy will be very similar to my sophomore and junior year, have fun, relax, and be observant. Take notes of the moves being made and make sure I'm in a position to cover them."
Graydon Morris uses his experience to navigate the 2019 Foot Locker South race
Morris' senior year has been a little different than his previous three high school seasons. He only ran one meet this season prior to the Texas UIL championship season, so this weekend, he will be heading into Foot Locker Nationals with only five races under his belt this season. All but one of those races were qualify to advance type races.
However, he perhaps feels stronger and more prepared than ever. Morris has made two significant changes to training that he believes could make the difference and give him a good shot at winning this year. "I feel very fit and ready for Saturday. We have approached training in a completely different way. We tapered for the race this year without reducing intensity, just volume, where as in the past we did both. I have also implemented cross training and weights into my weekly routine which has tremendously improved my running in every aspect."
A win this weekend would be another major notch on his resume, as it would further cement him in Foot Locker history.
Win or lose this weekend, Morris believes his high school season is already a success and will not define him. He has tasted individual success, but he has also been able to taste team success by helping to lead the Aledo boys team to the state meet this year.
"My high school cross country career has surpassed all expectations I had going into my freshman year. I feel unbelievably grateful for the support I have received from those around me because without them I wouldn't have been able to do the things that I've done. They say it takes a village and I can attest to that with every bit of my heart. I hope to end my high school cross country career with a win at Balboa, but regardless I am so happy with the way things have gone."