Cass Tech's Morgan excels in many roles

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Detroit — Savalas Morgan has a busy schedule while finishing his senior year at Detroit Cass Tech and couldn’t be happier about it.

On Monday, Morgan attended school, went to play practice and worked out in the gym on his hurdles for track before heading off to work at a printing shop.

What makes Morgan special is his ability to not only do multiple things in a day, but also to excel at them. He made incredible strides in the 110-meter high hurdles, improving from 15.6 seconds his junior year to 14.1, making him a legitimate threat to win the state title next month in Hudsonville.

Oh, and he’s a young man who knows what he wants out of life. He has a goal of earning a track scholarship at Michigan State, where he plans to major in human biology to become a neurosurgeon. However, he has yet to have an offer from any college, despite his impressive showing this season.

And the stakes get higher, with Morgan competing in the regionals Friday afternoon at Grosse Pointe South before he travels back to Cass Tech to show his moves in the musical “Aida” at 7 p.m.

“That’s the plan,” said Morgan of the Friday schedule that includes morning classes at Cass Tech. He was at his best in the classroom last semester, putting together a 4.2 GPA to bring his overall mark to 3.2.

Of the play, Morgan said: “I’m ensemble, a lot of dancing and things like that. It’s fun.”

So how did Morgan take the step from good to great in track?

“Coach Wilcher,” he said of Cass Tech track coach Thomas Wilcher. “Offseason, he was up here working with me, not leaving until 7 or 8 at night, getting my trail leg down, making sure everything was going faster and stuff.

“We’ve been kind of working on this since I was a sophomore, but I’ve really improved this year, and everything’s coming together now. I’ve put as much time as I can get. I have schoolwork, a job, and I’m in a play here, but I can come in here (Cass Tech gym) and work out fourth and fifth hour and my lunch hour and my gym hour.”

Yes, Morgan makes the most of his time.

Morgan’s first love was football. He was a 5-foot-10, 185-pound backup cornerback on Cass Tech’s Division 1 state runner-up team — coached by Wilcher. He said Wilcher got him involved in track to prepare him for the season.

Now, Morgan hopes to open the eyes of the Spartans’ coaches in the weeks ahead to earn a track scholarship.

“I’ve wanted to go to Michigan State since I was a kid, and Coach Wilcher, we’d go up there every year for football, and when I visited the campus I felt home, and my sister (Arielle) goes there and I go and visit her all the time,” Morgan said.

Wilcher isn’t surprised by Morgan’s success in the 110 hurdles.

“He had the speed, just never was consistent at it,” Wilcher said. “It’s not that hard dropping if you have the type of speed he has. The technique in the high hurdles comes when you can three-step on speed and confidence; that’s where it comes in at. If you’re fast, you’ll be able to run over the hurdles as long as you don’t collide and run into them. If you have good speed, you can be a great hurdler.”

Wilcher would know, since he was the NCAA Division 1 track and field national champion in the indoor 55-meter hurdles and Big Ten champion in the outdoor 110-meter hurdles while at Michigan, where he also played football 30 years ago. He also competed in the 1988 Olympic Trials.

Wilcher thinks Morgan has a solid chance to win the state championship next month and that he could compete in college.

Antoine Lloyd of East Kentwood won the state title with a 13.95 in 2014 and now is an All-Big Ten competitor at Nebraska. Robie Webster of Ypsilanti Lincoln won the state title last year at 14.0 and is competing at Boston University.

“He could, but the key thing is you have to concentrate on it, and that kid has so many irons in the fire. He’s got a job, he’s in a play and he’s running track,” said Wilcher of Morgan.

“The most important thing is that he hasn’t given up. When you go to college he might focus on it and he may do it because he could be a great 400 hurdler. He could be a great high hurdler because he’s got the speed, the technique sound, so once he keeps going, he’ll do a great job.”

Morgan certainly did a great job when he competed in an invitational at Dayton earlier this month, winning the 110 meters with a time of 14.2.

“That felt great,” said Morgan. “I was running, finished, looked at clock, and said, ‘Wow, 14.2.’ I was amazed by it. I’m just working hard, trying to really stay humble. I mean, I went from 16.6 my sophomore year to 15.6 last year and now this.”

Cass Tech girls coach Chris Wright took Morgan to the Don Mitchell Memorial-Dayton Relays.

“Savalas is a great young man, a wonderful kid,” said Wright. “You had teams from all over, and he won the 110 hurdles with a 14.20, then took second place with very short rest in the 300 hurdles. Just to run back to back to back like that — he ran three heats in the 110 and two heats in the 300 — was really impressive. I was really, really happy for him. He’s really put the work in.”

All Morgan wants to do in the days and weeks ahead is put on a quality show in “Aida,” win a state championship in the hurdles to earn that scholarship and impress his boss by putting in some more solid work at the printing shop.

“After all this hard work, I just want to go win (the state title) this time,” Morgan said. “I made it to states my 10th- grade year for a relay and didn’t win, made it for a relay last year and placed, made it for 300 hurdles last year and didn’t place.

“Now, I want to win it all in the 110 and make sure all my hard work pays off.”