CHURCH HILL – Volunteer senior track standout Morgan Salyers signed a letter of intent Monday to continue her career at Lincoln Memorial University.
“She’s signing a scholarship for track,” Volunteer Athletic Director Jim Whalen told the students in attendance in Volunteer’s gym. “She’s going to go up there and help LMU, a Division II getting ready to go to Division I in a couple of years.
“She’s going to have everything paid for by track and her smartness. The full thing is paid for. I’m going to say it’s probably close to $90,000 over four years. It’s over $20,000 a year,” Whalen said.
Morgan’s father, Johnny Salyers, credited several coaches, including Claudette Sivert, Tina Evans, Ernest Hill and Jim Ailshie.
“This is a big burden here being taken off of us,” Johnny Salyers said. “We’re very blessed. There have been a lot of people who have contributed, starting with Coach Sivert. When she was a freshman, Claudette came to me and said, ‘Look, I’ve never had a girl jump 32 or 33 feet right off the bat. I’m a track coach. Let’s get her some help.’
“So, she introduced us to Coach Hill, which we’re very pleased was here today. We’ve been seeing a regular jump coach the last three years. Of course Coach Ailshie came in this year and with what he has contributed, we’re very blessed,” the father said.
“And Tina is the motivator. She’s the driver. She’s the one who makes the girls work. So we’re blessed. With her good grades and her track money, it was a full ride, so we’re in good shape. She had several offers and she even had some D-1, but it was performance-based. After we weighed all the options, we left it up to her and she narrowed it down to here, Montreat and Youngstown State. And she decided LMU. We’re pleased,” Salyers said.
Sivert, Volunteer’s longtime girls track coach who retired after last season – Morgan’s junior year, recognized her athletic ability early on.
“I knew when she was a freshman she had some talent,” Sivert said. “The thing I remember about Morgan the most was when she was a freshman, I said, ‘Morgan, I think you should try the triple jump and she said, ‘What’s that?’”
“I didn’t even know it was a thing and Mrs. Sivert told me about it,” Morgan said. “She was like, ‘I think you’ll be good at it.’ And I tried it and she introduced me to Coach Hill. He’s how I’m here. He’s helped me a lot.”
“Coach Hill has helped her tremendously,” Sivert added. “He’s a triple jump specialist. He’s really helped her. That’s such a technical event. You have to know a lot about it. He was a triple jumper, so he’s really helped her.”
“I’ve been working with her ever since she was a freshman,” said Hill. “Her height was about the same as it is now. Her eagerness to work is great. She ran AAU during the summer.
“I only have positive things to say about her. She’s worked really hard and I’m really happy for her. She has a great personality. Her work ethics are as high as anyone’s. Her upscale for college sports is going to be great. She’ll have someone in college working with her everyday during the offseason and during the season, so she still has a lot of room for improvement,” Hill said.
Salyers’ work ethic hasn’t been lost on her coaches.
“Morgan has always been a hard worker,” Sivert said. “She’s just a natural athlete. I think she’ll do well in college. She has good family support. That means a lot. She’s a hard worker. Morgan will do well because she’s multi-talented. She was a very important part of our successful sprint relays the past three years. I’m really happy for Morgan.”
“She’s put a lot of hard work in,” added Evans, longtime assistant Volunteer track coach. “She’s inspires her classmates. She’s somebody for them to look at that hard work really does pay off. A lot of times they look at basketball, volleyball or softball or something, but track is kind of overlooked. But it’s really in track that it’s all on them, the individual.”
Salyers said she started participating in track in seventh grade.
“In middle school, I only did long jump, the 100 and both relays, the 4x100 and 4x200, pretty much the same stuff,” she said, mentioning some other events she’s tried this year. “I’ve done some hurdles. I’ve actually just started some long jump. I haven’t done long jump since like eighth grade, but I’m doing it now. Triple jump is my favorite. I like winning!”
Evans joked about the triple jump’s seemingly difficult technique. “I don’t know that I could ever figure out how to triple jump,” she said.
“Everybody thinks it’s hard, but it’s really not,” Salyers said. “At first it was confusing, like the steps were confusing. But it’s not hard at all. Balance is a big part of it, like the bounding phases, and you have to have strong legs. A lot of people think speed is a big key, but it’s not. You just have to have technique.”
Her technique has been good enough to qualify for the TSSAA State Track
& Field Championships at Middle Tennessee State University her first three years from a very tough region. She’s medaled the last two years there.
“Just to qualify to go to Murfreesboro is very, very special, but she’s reached the podium both her sophomore and junior year in the triple jump,” Ailshie said. “There’s been a lot of time and effort put in. This is the culmination of her hard work and effort. She has a lot of potential.”
“It took a lot of hard work and practice. It takes a lot of bounding, hills and legwork,” Salyers said. “Coach Ailshie has been a big help as far as pushing me. He can tell when I’m hurting and he’ll sit me out, which I hate. But that’s good, though. When I hurt my ankle, I wasn’t going to tell him. But he figured it out. It’s better now, so that was good.”
Ailshie thinks LMU is a good fit for Salyers.
“She’s worked extremely hard to reach this point,” Ailshie said. “She had a lot of interest from several different schools, but I think she’s going to a great school in Lincoln Memorial University. They’re in the South Atlantic Conference. They’re updating their facilities. They have a new coach that I greatly respect, Coach Rochelle Black, who is a former jumper and a hurdler, so she’s going to be in great hands.
“A part of being a collegiate coach is to develop your athletes and Morgan has got a wide range of different events that she can participate in at the college level, not only in the triple jump and the long jump, but she has competed in the hurdles and as a sprinter and on the relays. As a collegiate coach, you want someone who can score in multiple events and that’s kind of what she brings to the table. She’s going to do really well,” Ailshie said.
“I am sure when she arrives in college, Coach Black will further develop her. We’re looking forward to seeing her progress not only athletically, but academically. I think she’ll do real well,” Ailshie said.
Salyers isn’t sure what to expect.
“They haven’t really told me a lot. I just know about practices and stuff. I want to get a lot stronger. I need my legs stronger for sure,” she said, naming “running, weights and bodywork” as means to do it.
Salyers, who has earned a 3.8 grade point average at Volunteer, plans to initially study criminal justice. “As of right now, I want to go into criminal justice. I don’t want to be on the law side, but on the forensic side,” she said, adding she likes the school’s Harrogate location, not too far from home.
“It’s far enough that I’m on my own, but at the same time I can come back,” she said.
Salyers said “making memories with teammates and going to state” have been the highlights of her time at Volunteer, but she still has some unfinished business.
“I definitely want to go back to state. I would like to win state, but I’ll have to be on my game, like best,” she said. “I’m ranked number-one in the region right now. Hopefully, I’ll win that and go to state and do good there.”
Salyers has many people rooting for her to do well there and at LMU.
“She’s accomplished a lot,” Ailshie said. “We’re extremely proud of her here at Volunteer High School. I look forward to the last month of the season, but wish her all the best as she moves forward with her career.”
“It’s a great day for us that she’s got an opportunity to further her education through track,” added Whalen.
“I’m very proud of her and pleased that she’s going to the next level,” Evans said. “She’s a good kid, a nice kid. She does whatever you ask her to do. She’s a sweet, sweet girl, so I’m thrilled for her. I can’t wait to see what she does at the next level.”