To say that Westminster junior Brendan Morales has come a long way in the past year would be an understatement.
A year after finishing a distant seventh in the shot put at the Carroll County indoor track championships, Morales this winter added upwards of 10 feet to his throws, claiming county, regional and conference titles before finishing as runner-up at the Class 4A state meet. There, he was one of only two athletes to clear the 50-foot mark.
In two weeks, Morales, 5 feet 11 and 240 pounds, will compete in the weight throw at the Nike Indoor Nationals in Landover. He's also expected to be among the county's best in the discus this spring.
Your shot put has improved quite a bit from a year ago. What's been the biggest factor?
I certainly hit the weight room a lot, and my commitments have really changed. I was kind of spread really thin last year, and I didn't really know where I wanted to go with my high school career. Then I got a private coach [McDonogh coach Nick Agoris]. He gave me a call and said he thought I could go real far with throwing, so I cracked down on myself and now I'm training every day.
Is shot putting more about muscle or technique?
As a starting thrower when you don't really have technique, muscle is definitely a big factor. I didn't really have technique my freshman and sophomore years, and I was still throwing relatively far in comparison to the rest of the county and the region. But once you get into the upper levels of states and nationals, that's when the technique really starts to kick in. You can get the extra five or 10 feet, which really helps.
Your personal best this season was 53 feet, 8 inches. Do you have any specific goals as far as distance for the outdoor season?
I'd probably like to get in the upper 50s, like 57, 58 or 59 [feet], or maybe even 60 if I train hard enough.
At the Class 4A state indoor meet, you finished second in the shot put, losing only to Gaithersburg's Sean Stanley. Since both of you are juniors, what do you think you'll need to do to get the best of him in future meets?
I'm on my way. It's kind of funny you should ask, because I've been through this in my head thousands of times. We're both improving at the same rate -- it's just who's going to PR and who's not going to perform at the same time. Both of us really underperformed at states, so it just comes down to who's ready to throw that day. If I had PR'd that day, I'm sure I could have beaten him, but that wasn't the case.
You also compete in the discus during the outdoor season. Which comes easier for you?
Discus definitely comes more naturally. But since it's just for the outdoor season, it's really hard to train for discus in high school because we have to share the fields with all the other people.
Have you surprised yourself with what you've been able to accomplish this season?
Yeah, actually. Not in shot put, but I also do the weight throw. It was kind of like a "Hey, why don't you try this Brendan" kind of thing. I picked it up one day, and Coach Agoris said I was a natural at it. If you've ever hit a slump in your life, you really don't know why you're not progressing. Then one day it all clicks, and you start blowing people out of the water. When you step back from it, you realize that you've really accomplished something.
How is the weight throw different from the hammer throw?
It's on a chain, not a wire, and it's a shorter length, about five inches. It's also 25 pounds instead of 16, like the hammer is. You throw it in the same circle and everything.
Do you play other sports, as well?
Yes, I play rugby down at West Carroll. It's a club team. Also, I used to play football. My junior year on the varsity, that was the summer when I started training with Coach Agoris. He told me he'd rather see me play rugby than football, because you just get a lot of injuries from football. I knew I wasn't going anywhere with football, in terms of college, so I think that was one of those commitment changes I made that made me a better thrower.
Have you had much contact with any colleges yet?
Coach Agoris kind of knows some people, and he's been relaying the information that they think I'm doing a good job. But I haven't personally gotten any guarantees on college yet. Primarily what I want to do is get some money for college. My brother is in college right now, and it is a lot of money. Track is fun, but the real goal is to get a lot of scholarship money, go through college and get an education.