Before Morgan Laney was to compete in the shot put at the North Coast Section Meet of Champions on Saturday, Del Norte High track and field assistant coach Doug Wakefield had a question for her.
Morgan Laney practices the shot put Tuesday. She’ll represent Del Norte High at the state meet beginning Friday in Clovis. Del Norte Triplicate/Bryant Anderson
“Are you nervous?” Wakefield asked.
Laney, a senior thrower for the Warriors, replied that she was.
“Good. So am I. You should be nervous,” Wakefield recalled himself saying with a laugh.
At Edwards Stadium on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, a small Del Norte cheering section of parents and family members watched as Laney made her first put — over 38 feet. On this day, each of Laney’s six throws would travel farther than 38 feet, the first such occurrence in the 2012 season.
Morgan Jones, a freshman from James Logan High School in Union City, set a high bar late in the competition with a throw of 39 feet, 8 inches — 2 inches better than Laney’s personal best, which is also the Del Norte High School record.
“I had a feeling she’d top it,” Wakefield said. “She was looking good. Her form was good. When it came down to the last throw, I was a little nervous.”
Laney had already punched her ticket to the California Interscholastic Federation State Track Championship, so with one last attempt, “I wanted to really let it go.”
“At first, I was really excited,” she said. “Then I was like, ‘Okay, don’t get too excited.’ You can’t get too excited till they measure it.”
Forty feet, 2 inches.
Laney had won the North Coast Section event championship, breaking her own school record in the process. Until Saturday, no Del Norte girl had ever put the shot 40 feet.
“I was immediately jumping up and down,” Wakefield said. “I wanted to let the crowd know it was a good one.”
Wakefield’s actions were met with cheers from the Del Norte contingent, sitting across the stadium from the shot put ring.
“Her mom (Barbara Laney) and I were jumping up and down in tears,” recalled Brianna Wakefield, Doug Wakefield’s daughter and Morgan Laney’s track teammate and friend.
One more meet to go now, as Laney’s illustrious Warriors career will come to an end. The CIF state meet begins Friday at Veterans Memorial Stadium at Buchanan High School in Clovis. Laney, the 16th-seeded shot putter in the state entering the meet, aspires to perform at her best in honor of her coaches, family and the community at large.
“They’ve done a lot and been a huge support system for me,” she said. “They’ve been really true with me, telling me how it is.”
Laney first qualified for the CIF state track meet as a junior in 2011. Her best throw of 38 feet, 6 inches, put her in 16th place overall.
“After state, my goal was to do better — I didn’t have the best performance,” Laney said. “The competition level was different than I’ve ever seen before. It was unbelievable to just watch (the other girls) and compete with them.”
Her preparation for this track season began last fall, when Laney also played with the Del Norte volleyball team. She tailored her weight-room workouts toward building muscle to be better prepared for the shot put.
The 5-foot-11 Laney has the prototypical thrower’s physique — strong lower body and broad shoulders — a love of the weight room and the drive to put her physical talents together.
“She’s just a competitive person all around,” Brianna Wakefield said. “In the weight room she strives to do the best she can. She’s always pushing people to do their best; she’ll (yell at her teammates) ‘Come on, you guys! Work!’
“A few times, I thought she was going to hurt someone,” Wakefield added with a laugh.
The elder stateswoman among the Warrior throwers, Laney is known to actively assist her teammates in their events and answer questions. Wakefield believes that she “could be an excellent coach when she’s older.”
“She’s very critical — not harsh, but constructive,” freshman thrower Connor Smith said. “She sees what you’re doing wrong.”
Beyond the state meet, Laney’s future is secure. She signed a letter of intent to compete for Sacramento State on a partial track scholarship, where she will continue with the shot put and discus throw (her second event at Del Norte) and learn the hammer throw, which is not contested at the high school level in California.
For now, she’d like to finish in the top 10 at state. Stamatia Scarvelis, a sophomore at Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta, has the state’s best throw on the season: 49 feet, 5.5 inches. Every other girl in the top 10 has thrown over 43 feet, stiff competition in a stacked event.
“I’m seeing another PR (personal record) in her future,” Doug Wakefield said.
Laney, for her part, has put in the work.